A couple of months back on a day trip to New Orleans, my family and I decided to swing by the NOLA Brewing tap room for lunch — McClure’s Barbecue has set up in there, and they put out some fantastic food, both barbecue and sides. In fact, you might want to go now before the state does its level best to cut off a burgeoning industry at the knees.
Anyway, almost everything is good, but the thing that blew our minds were the molasses-braised greens. I had to try them or myself.
Collard greens are one of those things that can be cooked a ton of ways, and even the most basic version, stewed down in a big pot with some sort of cured meat like ham or bacon or what have you, is still pretty good.
However, after some experimenting, I found a really good combination of flavors for a braising liquid that combines sweetness, bitterness, spice and savory really well. My wife’s more or less hooked for the foreseeable future when we grill.
3 pounds of fresh collard or mustard greens (washed and chopped)
1 pound of bacon, preferably thick-cut, chopped into small pieces
1 onion, chopped finely
1⁄4 cup minced garlic
1 12-ounce can of beer — in the spirit, I used NOLA’s Brown Ale
4 tbsp molasses or Steens cane syrup
1⁄4 cup apple cider vinegar
1⁄4 cup balsamic vinegar
1⁄4 cup worcestshire sauce
1 tbsp tabasco sauce (or to taste)
1 tbsp fresh cracked black pepper
1 tsp liquid crab boil
The crab boil adds the perfect amount of heat, and allows the black pepper and tabasco to act more as flavoring agents. Adjust the seasoning as necessary for your own palate.
I know this sounds like a ton of ingredients for greens, but honestly this isn’t too involved and its greens. You get it all on a stove and let it cook a few hours.
In a large, wide-bottom Dutch oven, cook the bacon on medium heat until the pieces brown and the fat renders out. A lot of greens skip browning the bacon, as it’ll still cook and seep that flavor out, but I like the texture. Plus you get a little grease for your next step.
In the rendered grease, saute your onions for until wilted. As they start to clear up, add the garlic, and cook for another five minutes or so, stirring occasionally.
Reduce your heat and add the remaining ingredients, except for the greens and stir to combine well. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to simmer for about 10-15 minutes so all the flavors marry. Taste, and adjust your spice as you wish, or maybe add a pinch of salt.
Add the greens in batches, and stir to get as many of them coated in the liquid. You’ll probably need them to shrivel up a bit to fit the whole three pounds.
Bring the mixture to a low boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook for at least an hour, or as long as you like.
This recipe will serve 6-8 people comfortably as a side dish.