Lamb-Stuffed Collards From 'The New Southern Table'

Lamb-Stuffed Collards
Brys Stephens

Unlike most Southern cookbooks, Brys Stephens's book, The New Southern Table, does not include a recipe for slow-cooked collard greens. Instead, he prefers to cook the hearty green more quickly with boldly flavored ingredients, or to use it as a creative substitute for other greens, like these lamb-stuffed collards. In it, blanched collard greens are treated like grape leaves and wrapped around a seasoned lamb and bulgur mixture. The wraps are baked in an easy tomato sauce and a generous pour of white wine, which penetrates and flavors the gently cooked greens.

Why I picked this recipe: Despite my affinity for all things lamb and leafy greens, I hadn't thought to combine the two in this way.

What worked: Stephens is smart to use the same skillet to sauté the lamb and build the sauce; the tomatoes will deglaze the pan and carry the caramelized bits from the lamb. The result is a cohesive and comforting dish.

What didn't: No problems here.

Suggested tweaks: You could substitute ground beef or ground dark turkey meat for the lamb if you must. Large curly kale leaves would work in place of the collards. If you need to make the dish gluten-free, you could probably use quinoa or millet instead of the bulgur.

Reprinted with permission from The New Southern Table: Classic Ingredients Revisited by Brys Stephens. Copyright 2014. Published by Fair Winds Press. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.

Recipe Facts

Active: 60 mins
Total: 100 mins
Serves: 4 to 6 servings

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  • Stuffed Collards:
  • 4 cups (945ml) water, plus more for blanching the collards
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 3/4 cup (105g) bulgur
  • 12 ounces (340g) collard green leaves (about 8 to 10 medium-size leaves)
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) olive oil
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds (905g) ground lamb
  • 2 teaspoons (2g) dried oregano
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 4 to 6 fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon (2g) freshly grated lemon zest
  •  Sauce:
  • 1/2 medium-size yellow onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 can (28 ounces, or 795g) whole peeled tomatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup (235ml) dry white wine


  1. To make the stuffed collards: Bring the 4 cups of water to a boil, stir in the salt and bulgur, and then lower the heat to simmer gently 10 to 15 minutes, or until the bulgur is tender. Drain, rinse the bulgur with cold water, and set aside until completely drained, stirring occasionally to help this process along.

  2. While the bulgur is cooking, prepare the collard leaves by peeling the central stems with a vegetable peeler so that they’re flush with the leaves. Cut off the stem ends below the leaves and discard.

  3. Bring a large stockpot of generously salted water to a boil. Working in two batches, add the collard green leaves, and blanch about 2 minutes, or until bright green but still firm. Transfer the leaves to a kitchen towel to drain.

  4. Heat the olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, season lightly with salt, and cook, stirring often, 3 to 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add the garlic and cook about 30 seconds until fragrant.

  5. Add the ground lamb and oregano, season with salt and pepper, and add the red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring often and breaking the lamb up, 10 to 15 minutes, or until meat is cooked through. Stir in the mint and lemon zest.

  6. Transfer the lamb mixture to a large bowl, leaving about 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of fat in the skillet. Add the bulgur to the bowl with the lamb, stir to combine, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

  7. To make the sauce: Return the skillet to medium-high heat, and add the onion. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add the garlic, and cook about 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring and breaking them up, about 10 minutes, or until it thickens to a sauce. Season to taste with salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Stir one fourth of this tomato sauce into the lamb and bulgur mixture.

  8. To assemble: Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C, or gas mark 5). Spread out the collard leaves on a work surface. Divide the lamb and bulgur mixture among the collard leaves, mounding it in the center. Roll each collard leaf over the lamb mixture, folding the sides inward.

  9. Cover the bottom of a large casserole dish with half of the remaining tomato sauce, top with the stuffed collards, and spread the remaining tomato sauce over the collards. Pour the wine into the bottom of the casserole dish, cover with foil, and bake about 30 minutes.