Uptown Collard Greens
When we moved to our farm from Pennsylvania in 1985, I was surprised to find that collard greens were a traditional holiday side dish here in our community. We embraced all the Southern vegetables, such as these delicious greens, and I created this recipe to dress them up for special occasions.
3 pounds of washed, trimmed, and sliced collard greens*
3 cups water
2 tsp. salt
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 cups half and half
8 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup flour
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
Salt & pepper to taste
2/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup ricotta cheese
4 ounces Mozzarella cheese
For Greens: Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a large stock pot; add salt. Fill the pot with greens, adding more as they cook down, until all have been added. Cover, bring back to a boil, lower heat to a fast simmer and cook until tender, stirring and checking water level frequently. Add water as needed to keep from burning. Greens should be JUST tender, and not mushy. Pour into a large colander and drain completely. While greens are draining, make sauce.
For Sauce: Rinse and dry the same pot you used to make the greens, and return it to the burner set at medium heat. Melt butter, stir in flour and nutmeg. Stir till thick and bubbly, but do not brown. Stir in hot broth and cream and simmer till thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan and ricotta cheese till melted. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as you desire.
Assemble: Return the drained greens to the pot with the sauce. Using a large spoon, gently fold the greens into the sauce until they are completely covered with the sauce, then spoon into a buttered casserole dish. Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Top with shredded Mozzarella cheese and return to the oven for 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted and is golden.
*Note: It will take a five-gallon bucket full of loose greens to get 1 1/2 pounds of trimmed greens, so you’ll need two buckets full. I bake this casserole in the oven in the crockery insert of my 6-qt. oval crock pot (the leaves really cook down) and put the filled crockery insert back into the crock pot to keep it warm to serve. Great for a covered dish or buffet.
*To clean collard leaves, fold the leaf in half lengthwise with right sides together, stem end up and away from your hand. Grasp the cut end of the thick vein with your other hand and pull downwards, separating it cleanly from the leaf. Discard the vein. Lay several destemmed leaves on top of one another on your cutting board and roll up, starting with the long sides, till they look like a big cigar. Using a sharp chef’s knife, slice through in one-inch increments. For very large leaves, run your knife back through the length of the slices to cut them into smaller pieces. For a tutorial with pictures, please visit my blog Adventures on Fox Trot Farm by clicking HERE.