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Come Back Greens - The Collard Green Journey

Updated: Mar 12, 2022

Themes - Gracious and Good, Just Good Food

Food/Tech Tie In – Developing Flavor in Layers

Homage - My Nana & My Sister

Its hard to imagine a celebration meal with out Collard Greens. While they are yums to the tums anytime of the year, and Im very fortunate that they grow all year round here in the Carolinas, sitting down to a celebration meal between Nov and April without Collards seems...unfortunate.

Unfortunate as...they are a go to. Fairly straight forward in prep and cooking, it makes it hard to mess up a mess o’greens. As long as they are cooked til tender and have some level of seasoning to them, they can be enhanced on the plate. That said...I like mine full of flavor no matter how they are prepped: ripped, rough chop, a perfect ¾” chiffonade or, how they are cooked: boiled, sautéed, mixed with other greens such as turnip, mustard, kale and/or their cousin “cabbage”.

My collard green journey begins like so many of mine, in my Nanas Kitchen. Esther was a ham hock aficionado. If there was one or two boiling in a pot on the stove, you know something was going to get some smokey, oink-ey goodness added in. Greens, string beans, black eyed peas were always welcoming recipients of pork enhancements. Back then, looking at a cooked ham hocks use to gross me out, the gelatinousness of it all...everywhere, but when it came time for eating, all that faded to the background.

Nanas greens were stripped by hand from the stem, torn, placed in a pot with water, the ham hock and its liquid, onions, and some good-good (that’s seasonings and such). Nana needed to see a film of grease floating on top to feel that the greens were on their way to being “right” With a ham hock in there, an oil slick was guaranteed.

One Christmas at my sisters house, she and I collectively started to make the Greens, she more than I as it was her house and for the most part, her recipe. We were all becoming more mindful of our health and while we were going to have all of the delicious calorie intensive dishes we were used to such as Ham, Mac & Cheese, Mashed Potatoes and an accommodation for me and my part-time vegetarian, non-pork eating self (at that time), smoked turkey wings replaced ham hocks as the seasoning meat. Yum right?

Nana was there supervising, but more of her time was spent basking in the joy of her now grown grandkids and her great-grandkids. What did Santa bring those that still believed? Did the bigger ones get that bike or Nintendo? Joy and laughter wrapped the house inside and out. The aroma from the kitchen was the bow, as everyone could all smell the turkey and stuffing hitting all of the right notes. With the TV and music on, we were singing, dancing and making merry like Christmas for real.

Well, it was almost time to eat and Nana started checking all the food to make sure it was on the up and up. When she lifted the pot off the greens, she looked at it, then looked at my sister and I and literally said...”where’s the grease?”. We kinda tried to ‘splain about the benefits of smoked turkey, and while it was all taken in, we could see, it wasn’t going to net a win.

Seeing this...if memory serves me right, I think my sister just gave me up with a reference to my new eating habits. Well Esther decided...with a smile, that she was going to course correct our no swine misstep. She put together some combo of bacon grease and vegetable oil, poured it on top of the greens saying “a little bit wont hurt chu”, in a voice that can only be replied to with a collective “Ok Nana”.

Standing behind her, my eyes widened when I saw the layer of fat become incorporated into the greens as she stirred the pot, and I clutched my shirt close to my heart a la Fred Sanford. Mind you...I was out of her line of vision cause...we were grown, but not throw your grandmother shade grown. My sister laughed then, laughs about it now, and she still uses ham hocks....on major occasions.

Giving credit, where it is do, as time moved on, my sister who will switch to smoked turkey wings on occasion, especially if I’m visiting, hands down, makes some of the best greens on the planet. Her special touches of burying the onion and adding a green bell pepper topper (you will have to check out the recipe to see what that’s all about), brings the flavor profile forward. You know you are eating greens, you know they are really really good, you’re trying to figure out the ingredients, you cant....but you want to come back to the bowl, the kitchen, the pot...for some more.

THAT’s what its all about, there are come back sauces that folks talk about far and wide, legendary in fact...but what about “Come Back Greens”?

My version of Come Back Greens is a story turned recipe that's a blend of Esther’s love, inspiration and warmth, my sisters ting and tang, my own seasoning add ins and method with “smoked turkey wings” that delivers on what’s good to you, for you, and for you to share with others.

From HereInMyKitchen to yours...Come Back Greens!

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