Published January 1, 2009.
We wanted a one-pot approach to turning meaty winter greens like kale and collards tender—without spending hours or leaving them awash in liquid.
Cooking meaty greens like kale and collards is problematic: A classic Southern-style braise is an hours-long project and cooks the life out of greens. The blanching-then-sautéing route is quicker and yields greens that still have chew, but the process is complicated—blanch, drain, squeeze, then sauté. Plus, even a brief dip in boiling water can rob greens of flavor.
We wanted a one-pot recipe that wouldn’t require parcooking or take hours of time. We also wanted to highlight the greens’ cabbagelike flavor and firm texture.
Because the large, dense leaves of collards were more of a challenge to cook than kale, we began with them. After prepping a full two pounds of greens—for most greens, what looks like a mountain cooks down to a miniscule amount—we skipped the blanching and went directly to sautéing in a bit of oil, with garlic and onion. Unfortunately, the collards took so long to soften that the bottom leaves started to scorch while the leaves at the top remained virtually raw. We knew we had to add more liquid, but we didn’t want to resort to a traditional braise, since we’d end up with exactly the soupy greens we were avoiding. The answer? Sautéing half of the collards, then adding water and broth with the rest of the greens. We also added a dash of red pepper flakes for heat. When the greens were almost the tender-firm texture we wanted, we removed the lid to allow the liquid to cook off. As finishing touches, we tossed the cooked collards with lemon juice just before serving to balance out the flavors, along with a little olive oil for extra richness. We also tried our recipe with more-tender kale and were pleased to find that it translated almost seamlessly; all we needed to do was shave a bit off the braising time.list of recipes