The Best of the Best: Good Old Southern Greens

Smothered Greens and Cornbread
 Is there anything better than discovering the secret to mastering a pot of quick collard greens? Most likely, you can think of a million better things to praise, but for a girl who loves greens in the I-can't-get-enough-of-these-greens way, when I learned that you can buy frozen greens, it was truly a life changing event.

Many people would be surprised to learn that collard greens are a member of the brassica family, which includes the cruciferous vegetables of cabbage and broccoli. While collards aren't as popular (at least not on the West Coast) as their cousins, I would venture that they sure are a lot tastier--even without the requisite ham hock. Truthfully, had I known there was an easy way to make a 'mess o' greens,' I would have turned out at least a pot a week.

But, I didn't. In fact, I thought that greens required nothing short of a Herculean effort and frankly, more often than not, it was a task that I didn't care to mess with. Like fresh spinach, kale, and chard, collard greens are dirty and require several washings to remove the grit--lest you chip a tooth while eating them--and, since they reduce down to almost nothing, you need a lot of greens to make a reasonable sized pot.

So, imagine my surprise when the secret to good smothered greens was revealed to me, not by one--but by two--girls from Tennessee! Actually, they're not girls at all, but rather grown women and while it seems a bit coincidental that they'd each have a 'green' secret to share, it's really not unusual at all. Smothered collard greens hail from the Deep South and although Louisiana is in the mix, greens are low country fare--not French, Creole, or Cajun.

The first secret that I learned was that you can buy frozen greens! Seriously, this knowledge was life changing for me. I'd never thought of looking. In fact, aside from frozen peas and the odd bag of frozen corn, I never ventured near the frozen vegetable bin. Who knew?? The second secret was revealed to me several days later by my other friend who mentioned that adding a can of Rotel to the pot gives the greens just enough heat to round out their flavor. Genius!

I couldn't get to the market quickly enough, where I spent the better part of an hour wandering the frozen vegetable section and when I finally wheeled my cart into the checkout lane, it was filled with bags of frozen greens and Rotel--I already had the bacon and onions at home. And, while I'm certain that those girls from Tennessee don't hold back on the bacon, I went for a healthier style and showed some restraint.

Mel's Smothered Greens
2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup green onion tops (green part only) thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely minced
4 pieces of bacon, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes
1 packet of Goya pork bouillon
2 packages of frozen collard greens
1 can of Rotel
olive oil
water
salt and pepper
Crystal's hot sauce

1. Heat a heavy stock pot and scatter the chopped bacon into the pan. Cook until the bacon releases its fat into the pan and then add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat until hot.
2. Add red pepper flakes and stir for 30 seconds, then add the green onion tops, onions, and garlic; cook until the vegetables are soft and fragrant.
3. Add the frozen collard greens and the packet of pork bouillon; stir.
4. Add the can of Rotel and enough water to cover the greens.
5. Cook over low heat for an hour or two (you can certainly hurry it up if you must) to develop the flavors--the pot likker is the best part!
6. Season with salt and pepper and a few dashes of Crystals.
7. Serve with Jiffy Cornbread (it's the best); I always use half heavy cream and half milk and add a tablespoon of pure maple syrup.
8. For a real treat, top leftover greens with poached eggs and crumbled corn bread,

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