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Bacon is the secret to Reid’s smoky collard greens

The secret to the braised collard greens at Reid’s is the pot likker that forms in the bottom of the pot.
The secret to the braised collard greens at Reid’s is the pot likker that forms in the bottom of the pot. Jennifer Lover

Carol Hamrick asked, “Please, please ask Reid’s Fine Foods to share their collards recipe. You cannot stop eating them –sweet/spicy/smoky – awesome!”

Full disclosure, I am from the North, so I was excited to delve into such a uniquely Southern tradition. I have eaten my share of greens since moving here, each batch different from the next, but all delicious in their own way. I have learned that every Southern chef brings his or her particular spin to the dish and there seems to be no limit to the variations.

I agree with Carol that the collards at Reid’s are some of the best. The secret is the rich, smoky broth that gets created in the bottom of the pot. Called pot liquor (or pot likker), it’s a concentration of flavors and vitamins that remains after the braising.

Add to that the fact that there are so many greens to choose from. Reid’s executive chef Lewis Donald said you can substitute beet greens, mustard greens, turnip greens or kale with this recipe. Tender greens cook more quickly than collards, so shorten the braising time accordingly. Kale should be cleaned the same as the collards. The other greens have stems that aren’t as tough, so they can be left in place before cutting.

The prep work is the most tedious process of this otherwise simple recipe. Choose collards with firm, dark green leaves that are blemish-free and not yellowed. Thoroughly wash each leaf front and back to loosen any grit before removing the tough stalks. Remove by folding the leaf along the center, holding it in your left hand and stripping the leaf down with your right hand. You can skip this step on the smaller, tender leaves. Or you can lay the leaves flat on the counter and use a sharp knife to cut along either side of the stalk.

Next, stack 5 to 6 leaves on top of each other. Roll the stack and slice approximately every inch. Then run the knife lengthwise so you end up with squares. Another option is to just tear the leaves into 1-inch pieces.

You can discard the stems, use them in the base for vegetable stock, or perhaps turn them into pickles using the simple brine recipe Ben Philpott shared in my last column. Play around with the recipe by adjusting the amount of sugar and red pepper flakes. Come up with your own style and have fun creating your own tradition.

Are you looking for a recipe from a Charlotte-area restaurant? Send your request to Jennifer Lover, or on Instagram (@jenniferlover). Please include your name, why you like the recipe, the area where you live and the restaurant’s location. Lover is a creative director, stylist and cook who lives in Charlotte.

Reid’s Fine Foods

Selwyn Corners: 2823 Selwyn Ave., 704-377-1312.

Fort Mill: 9762 Charlotte Highway, Fort Mill, S.C., 803-802-5603.

SouthPark mall (coming this fall): 4331 Barclay Downs Drive.


Reid’s Braised Collard Greens

1 (12-ounce) package bacon, diced

1 large yellow onion, julienned

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (adjust to your taste)

3-4 bunches collard greens (about 2 1/2 pounds), stems removed, leaves cut into 1-inch pieces

1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar

1 quart water

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven set over medium-high heat, render the fat from the bacon until it begins to brown and get crispy. Stir in onion and sauté until it begins to soften. Add brown sugar and crushed red pepper.

Add collards and sauté until they begin to wilt. Cover with liquids and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until greens are very tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.

Season with salt and black pepper. Remove greens with tongs or a slotted spoon and place in a serving dish.

Yield: 4-6 servings.