Sunday Collards (Adapted from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook, by Matt and Ted Lee)
Like okra, black-eyed peas, and watermelon, collard greens were imported to the New World from Africa and were originally cultivated by black slaves in their gardens. The traditional African-American recipes for greens call for long, slow cooking--not the modern stir-fry technique.
The liquid left after the greens are cooked is called pot liquor. It’s either served with the greens (you dip your cornbread in it) or reserved for poaching. You can mix in mustard greens, turnip greens, chard, or kale if you like, but collards are pretty wonderful all by themselves.
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, peanut oil, or canola oil
1 smoked ham hock or smoked hog jowl or 1/4 pound slab bacon, diced
8 cups water
3 dried chile peppers or 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 2/3 pounds collards or mixed greens (about 3 bunches, ribbed, washed, and cut into 1-inch wide strips)
1. Pour oil into an 8-quart stockpot over medium-high heat and swirl it around so it covers the bottom.
2. Score ham hock with a small, sharp knife, and when the oil begins to shimmer, set it in the pot.
3. Sear the hock all over as best you can and allow it to render some fat, about 6 minutes. (Since a hock's shape is so oblique, it will become spottily browned, but that is fine.)
4. Pour water into the pot; it will hiss and pop for a few seconds.
5. Add chiles and salt and bring to a boil over high heat.
6. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes, until the stock is deeply flavored with smoke and spiciness.
7. Add a few handfuls of collards to the pot. The greens will float to the surface, so stir them frequently, submerging them with the spoon, until they have turned a bright green, about 3 to 5 minutes, and become floppier and more compact, so you can add more handfuls.
8. Continue adding collards, stirring and submerging them, until all the greens are in the pot.
9. Turn heat to low and simmer gently for 1 hour. The greens will be very dark matte green and should be completely tender. If not tender, continue cooking.
10. Use a slotted spoon to serve greens and pass a bottle of hot sauce or peppers in vinegar.
Yield: 6-8 servings
Preparation Time: 1.5 to 2 hours