Despite my Southern heritage, I have never once eaten collards on Thanksgiving (I blame all those over-seasoned and over-cooked bowls of sludgy greens served at family reunions). After cooking up Sam Sifton's Braised Collard Greens, however, I may reconsider.
The greens are shredded then steamed briefly in a potent elixir of bacon fat, butter, and a bottle of beer. Once tender, they cook for only a few minutes to evaporate most of the beer from the pot, and are then tossed with a brightening dash of red wine vinegar. I knew going into the recipe that the bacon and butter would taste great with the greens, but the beer was a total surprise. Its beer-ness dissipates during cooking, leaving only malty sweetness and just a hint of fermented grain to the greens. It was this extra level of complexity that made these greens my favorite side of the season.
Why I picked this recipe: Curious about what beer could bring to the table, I couldn't pass up on this quick and easy green side.
What worked: Bacon, butter, and beer should always grace greens, collards or otherwise.
What didn't: I needed a couple extra minutes to cook off the beer once the greens were steamed, but the collards didn't suffer one bit.
Suggested tweaks: You could absolutely substitute kale or mustard greens here, but I'd steer clear of more tender greens like chard or spinach.
Reproduced by permission of Sam Sifton, author of Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author or publisher, Random House.
- 1 large bunch collard greens, stemmed, the leaves rolled together and chopped into ribbons
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 thick slices of bacon, cut into lardons
- 1 bottle beer — amber or darker
- Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and red pepper flakes to taste
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Heat butter in a large sauté pan set over medium-high heat until it foams. Add bacon and sauté until it starts to brown.
Add collards to the pan, turn the heat to high, and add the beer. Use a spoon to toss the greens in the fat and beer, then cover and cook for approximately 7 to 10 minutes, until greens are soft and wilted. Remove cover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until all the liquid has evaporated, another 3 to 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and peppers, add vinegar and toss to combine.