Traditional preparation of collard greens involves slowly cooking down a ham hock. The meat breaks down and the greens are infused with the pork fat that renders off. Nowadays, many people substitute the ham hock with smoked turkey for a healthier version without pork. To take the health factor one step further, I even have my own vegan version in which they’re sautéed in spices and aromatics and laced with lemon juice. Going meatless is a very rewarding dietary experience, but sometimes it’s okay to splurge. Well … a healthy-ish splurge. For this recipe I’m revisiting pork by way of smoked pork chops.
Because they’re so lean and prone to drying out, I’ve never really enjoy cooking pork chops. However, this smoked version has changed my mind with their ham-like quality. For these lean collard greens, all you need to do is slowly simmer them until the meat falls apart. You’re then left with a lean, smoky-seasoned broth. Smoked pork chops do have a little streak of fat on the edge and a small bone to impart a little flavor, so seize the opportunity.
The pork broth is jam packed with onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes for a little heat. You can substitute the red pepper flakes with pickled Tabasco peppers for a more vinegar-like heat.
For an added kick of freshness, these collard greens are topped off by the addition of some of my fresh Southern Sofrito. This is simply a green tomato-based blend of herbs and aromatics commonly used among American Southern food — parsley, tabasco peppers and the “holy trinity” mixture that is traditionally used in gumbo. Stirring some of this in upon completion adds a lift of freshness. Make a batch of this sofrito ahead of time and store it in the freezer.
- 2 bunches collard greens (about 12 to 16 stalks)
- 2 smoked pork chops
- 2 onions
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup Southern Sofrito
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Instructions for collard greens
- Fill a large pot of water with 8 cups of water. Cut the onions in half pole to pole and smash your garlic cloves. Into the pot, add the smoked pork chops, onions, garlic and red pepper flakes. Over high heat, bring everything to a brief boil for a few minutes,then reduce heat to low. Simmer this with the lid ajar until the meat falls apart easily, approximately 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, remove the collared green stems with a paring knife. To clean them, soak the leaves in a separate large pot of salt water for about 30 minutes. Gently agitate them with your fingers to remove any dirt. Transfer the leaves to a strainer over a sink for a second rinse.
- Slice the cleaned leaves crosswise into thin 1/4-inch ribbons and set aside.
- After the smoked pork chops are easily falling apart, break up the meat with your fingers and discard any bone that might be present. Fish out the broken down onions and garlic; press them in a fine mesh strainer to extract only the juices into the broth and discard the solids.
- Add the prepared collard green ribbons to the broth and bring them to a boil for a few minutes. Reduce heat and simmer the greens until your desired doneness is achieved. Season with salt to taste.
- Upon completion, stir in a 1/4 cup of my Southern Sofrito.