Wow. Has been really been 7 months since we last played “What’s In The Crockpot?” It has! I published Part Four last October 31st – Halloween – and the dish that I featured was what I contributed to a Halloween party potluck (click here to see the recipe – I won’t spoil the game if you haven’t played yet!)
Just because I haven’t published any “What’s In The Crockpot?” posts doesn’t mean that my crockpot has gone unused. I made a perfectly mediocre vegetable and bean stew in it just the other day. But because it was just mediocre (at best), and the internet is already flooded with mediocre recipes (just google Sandra Lee if you need proof), I refrained from blogging about it.
OK, Enough chit-chat. Pull up your socks and lace up your sneakers, because it’s time to play!
WHAT’S IN THE CROCKPOT?
COLLARD GREENS are in the Crockpot!
Before we get to the recipe, did you notice my hand-crafted crockpot handle in that first picture? My crockpot lid handle broke off last fall (I blogged about it here), but I fixed it with some epoxy that I had. Then it broke again, more recently, but this time it wasn’t a clean break, making it harder to reattach with glue or epoxy. So, instead, I’m making handles out of blue painter’s tape. Maybe I should ask Santa for a new crockpot this coming Christmas. Maybe he’ll bring me a fancy-pants one with a built-in timer! Sigh… a boy can dream!
On to the collard greens.
As I mentioned in my most recent produce haul post, I’ve never bought collard greens before. I’ve only eaten them a few times in my life, and the first occasion, if I’m remembering correctly, was in 2002 or 2003, after I moved to California. I’m a Midwestern boy, and you don’t see collard greens that much up in that part of the country – in fact, until the other day when I start manhandling them at the supermarket, I woudn’t have been able to identify collard greens if you slapped me in the face with them.
My knowledge of collard greens was very limited: I knew, like kale and spinach, that they’re very good for you, and I knew that you had to cook them. I also knew that they’re most commonly braised over low heat, so I thought they’d be a great ingredient for some crockpot cookin’.
Collards are big, broad, flat leaves:
I cut out the thick part of the stems:
Then I took all my stem-less leaves (the bunch I purchased had about a dozen leaves), put them in a big stack, rolled them up like a big cigar, and cut them into ribbons:
I consulted a bunch of online collard recipes, and they mostly were variants of the same theme: you cook them low and slow in some liquid, with some pork thrown in there to flavor it up: usually a ham hock or bacon. Well, I don’t have either item hanging around, so I decided to use a much leaner pork product…
…CANADIAN BACON! Canadian bacon has become my go-to product when I’m in the mood for a breakfast meat. It’s really lean and healthy, especially compared to sausage and bacon: a serving of Canadian bacon has 60 calories and 1.5 grams of fat. And I like that it’s smoky, and the perfect size for when I make breakfast sandwiches using English muffins.
So I pulled out a serving of Canadian bacon (3 slices), and chopped it into diamond shapes:
I also have a lot of garlic right now, so I thought I’d invite some garlic to the party. I used 5 or 6 cloves, and roughly chopped them.
That may seem like a lot of garlic, but it’s been my experience that garlic gets really mellow and mild after hours in a crockpot, so I usually add a little more than normal.
The Canadian bacon and garlic went in the crockpot first, followed with about 2 cups of water, so the collards had some liquid to braise in. Then, I added the collards:
On went the lid, and I set the crockpot to “high,” and off I went to the gym. My kitchen smelled so good when I got home – like garlic! After cooking for 3 to 4 hours, I scooped it up (using a slotted spoon), and it looked delicious. I topped it off with a couple spoonfuls of salsa:
DELICIOUS! Garlicky, a little smoky, and fantastic. I’m sure had I used a fattier meat, the whole dish would have been even smokier and meatier, since it’s the fat in meat that has all the flavor, but I stand by my healthy swap – there was enough Canadian bacon to get a piece in every bite.
That bowl, by the way, has the entire contents of the crockpot – collards, like any cooked green, wilt down significantly. I should have said at the beginning that this was a recipe for one – and you’ll have to double, triple, or quadruple everything if you’re cooking for more than one person.
OK, Southerners – what should I do different next time I buy collard greens? And think healthy… I won’t be adding a ton of butter or oil! A couple recipes I saw suggested hot sauce as an ingredient or garnish… that might be worth a shot!
Keep it up, David!