Monday, October 17, 2011

Southern Collard Greens with Ham Hocks

Yesterday, while working on a recipe for BBQ'd Meatloaf for Food Republic, I got an overwhelming hankering for a pot of greens to go with it. Perhaps it's the cool weather coming on or the fact that I might be a tad iron deficient, but whatever the reason, I just had to have some.

So I hit the store, grabbed a bag of mixed greens and a couple of hams hocks and set out to simmer a pot 'o greens to go with my meatloaf. After finding inspiration from Susan Russo's recipe for Southern-Style Greens, which was originally published on NPR as part of her take on a non-Southerner getting her first taste of Southern cooking (and greens), I thought it's about time I work on my own version.
Surprisingly, I've never published a recipe for greens. There's a recipe for slow-cooked kale in fatback in my book, but not collards or any mix thereof and definitely not anything involving ham hocks. I grew up eating all kinds of slow-cooked vegetables, and as Susan mentions, often they were more "browns" than greens. When it came to cooking greens in our house, it was all about the fatback, which while mighty tasty in its own right, never offered that signature smoked hammy flavor I crave in my greens, so after playing around with a couple of combinations including chicken broth, no chicken broth, lots of cider vinegar or less, cayenne or none, and of course, a ham hock, I settled on this recipe for a pot 'o greens, which not only is the perfect accompaniment for a big slab of meatloaf, but might even win over a couple more non-Southerners.

Pot 'O Greens with Ham Hocks

Serves 6


1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large ham hock
1 large garlic clove, smashed
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 16-ounce bag of pre-washed and cut collards or mixed greens of choice (or wash and slice you're own)
3 tablespoons cider vinegar (adjust this to your liking)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt, to taste
Generous amount of freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Toppings can include: more cider vinegar, hot sauce, minced onions, crumbled bacon, hot pepper vinegar or chow chow relish

In a large pot, heat your oil. Add ham hock and toss it around a bit. Add garlic and cook for one minute, being careful not to burn. Add chicken broth, greens, vinegar and cayenne. Bring up to a gentle boil. Add salt and black pepper. Then cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour or until greens are tender to your liking.

Serve in bowls with wedges of warm cornbread (I'm a fan of my dad's country grit bread) and whatever toppings you want. Be sure to spoon extra pot likker into each of the bowls just before serving.

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