Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year's Day Collards

We love tradition in the South, and when it comes to New Year's Day, there are a few things Southerners just can't do without: greens, pork, rice, and black-eyed peas.

The lore surrounding the importance of these good luck, prosperity-producing ingredients varies, but here's the basic thought:

- Greens bring prosperity in the form of dollar bills
- Pork represents the future because hogs can't turn their heads to look back
- Rice signifies abundance
- Black-eyed Peas bring prosperity in the form of coins

I always start the new year with a big pot of greens served over Hoppin' John (which is a hearty rice and black-eyed pea combo), hitting all four of the special components.

This recipe's an update to the collards my Mema made every New Year's Day (they were a true childhood favorite). She used a smoked hock, sugar, and hot sauce to flavor her greens.  I get my subtle, sweet-tart flavor from caramelized carrots and balsamic vinegar, and a little heat from red pepper flakes.  I've also made it a tad healthier by using fat-free chicken broth, which gives my recipe a cleaner tasting potlikker, which is just as important as the greens.  (A bowl of creamy grits topped with a ladleful of potlikker and some of the collards is my idea of comfort food.)

Scott's Collards
Serves 8

4 strips center-cut bacon
1 large carrot, diced
1 large Vidalia onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
4 (1-lb.) packages fresh collard greens, washed, thick stems removed, and chopped
1 1/2 cups low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Cook bacon in Dutch oven until crisp.  Remove bacon, reserving 2 Tbsp. drippings in pot.  Drain bacon on paper towel; crumble and reserve.

Cook carrot in hot drippings over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.  Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until carrot and onion begin to caramelize.  Add garlic and vinegar; cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds.  Add collards, reserved bacon, and remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 1 1/2 hours or until collards are tender.

I hope y'all enjoy the greens.  Let me know what you think.  Happy new year!  Scott


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