A side of greens

Though it seems a strange thing to say, I've always been compelled by collard greens. I think it's because they were always wrapped up in that Southern BBQ mystique. Big oil-drum grills manned by gigantic men in fields and on the sides of roads in the timeless South. I haven't spent much time there, if at all, and being from California, I know that any opinion I have on BBQ is immediatly dismissed. Rightly so. In CA, we don't BBQ. We grill. But I still like the art behind slow-cooked meats, and the sides that come with it. Creamy mac and cheese, sweet cornbread and smoky beans. But then there are the greens. I've never liked them, though I've really wanted to. I usually find them a sad, dishwater green with a tough consistency and drab taste to match.

Still, I know there's good there. There has to be. I think that with any traditional food gone bad that there's a great recipe back in the day that made it outstanding. And over the years corners are cut and less-than-stellar ingredients make it into the dish until you're left with the sad food in front of you. Like boring collard greens. So when my CSA listed collard greens as an option for the week, I decided to see if I could make them magic.

And magic they became. I went simple. Just bacon, onions and greens. That's it. No cider vinegar, no sugar, no broth. Recently a friend noted to me that starting a dish with bacon is cheating. Well, if using bacon is cheating, then I'm not inclined to play fair.

Simple Collard Greens:
2-3 slices thick-cut bacon
1 onion
1 bunch collard greens

In a large saucepan, cook the bacon over medium heat. While the bacon cooks, wash and dry the greens, ripping off the woody stems, rolling the leaves into a cigar and cutting them into 1" strips. Dice the onion.

Remove bacon from the pan, reserving the rendered fat (this would be the cheating part). Add onion to the pan and cook over medium heat until it's translucent. Maybe begins to brown around the edges.

Add greens and 1/3 cup water and cover. Simmer greens over medium-low heat. About 5-7 minutes. So they're nicely wilted but still really green. Cut the bacon into 1/4" strips and stir back in with the greens. Serve.

And that's it. Simple, good greens. All that's missing is some kick-ass BBQ to go with it.

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