Country Christmas Classic: Collards

My mama (a southern belle through and through) changes up our Christmas meal every year. Last year it was lamb, ham the year before that, and this year we will be treated to prime rib (mmm!). But one thing never changes–there will be some seriously southern side dishes.

For many, southern side dishes automatically conjure up something starchy. After all, it ain’t a meal south of the Mason-Dixon without biscuits, or rolls, or cornbread, with potatoes both sweet and mashed, or cheese straws, or dressing (what we call stuffing that never saw the inside of a turkey), or macaroni and cheese, or even grits. But we like to “go green” too. We like our beans green, unless they’re black eyed peas, and our spinach creamed. But greens–collards or turnips–are a true southern meal staple and will make an appearance at many a Christmas dinner.

Collards and turnips greens have great nutritional value, and like any vegetable that comes in a dark, rich, emerald hue, greens are chock full of vitamins and antioxidants. But in the south, everything tastes better with bacon or fat back, and traditional greens are prepared in such a manner. Greens are often boiled for hours upon hours and seasoned with bacon, fat back, vinegar, or sugar. Here’s a little bit lighter way to enjoy your greens that is a little bit nice [healthier] and a little bit naughty [bacon!].

Collards n’ Bacon
–2 strips of bacon
–1/2 small onion, diced

–1 bunch of collards
–black pepper

Using your handy kitchen scissors, cut the bacon strips in half length-wise and then cut into small pieces. Fry up these tiny pieces in a medium skillet over medium heat until crispy but not too done. Scoop them from the pan and drain on a paper towel, making sure to leave about 1 TBSP bacon grease in the pan.

Sauté the onion in the bacon grease for several minutes until the onion is translucent. Using those same handy kitchen scissors, cut the collards away from the center stalk so you have two halves of each collard leaf. Cut the leaves into strips directly into the pan. Stir to mix with the onion and reduce the heat to medium-low. Sauté the greens, stirring regularly. The greens will wilt but will also get crisp on the edges. Lower the temperature further if necessary.

Add the bacon pieces back to the mixture and season with some fresh black pepper. (You won’t need any salt–the bacon should provide plenty of seasoning!) Once everything is harmoniously mixed up and warm, eat ’em up!

Dammit Jim, I’m a cook, not a doctor…
Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4
Calories: 75 per serving

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