Taking collards in new directions this holiday season.
Potlikker won’t give you a buzz, but it is intoxicating. The salty juice, classically seasoned with meats like ham hock or fatback, lingers among a long-stewed mess of collard greens. Ladle them up with other Southern sides or barbecue, and you’ve got heaven on a plate. Though in the upper South, turnip greens are generally favored, the Deep South’s abiding love for collard greens doesn’t waver.
It began as a dish for the enslaved and impoverished, valued because it’s an easily cultivated plant that withstands climactic extremes. Folklore extols the greens’ mystical power to act as an enlivening tonic and serve as a poultice that can cure wounds. It’s also prized as a symbol of Southerness: take Thelonious Monk, who used to wear a collard leaf on his lapel when he performed.
Nowadays, collards have become a staple on tables across the South, transcendent of race and class. While there was a time when no cook would have dared alter the classic dish of smoky, slow-simmered greens, chefs of late have begun to take the collard to new heights. Chef Travis McShane of Adele’s in Nashville likes the greens raw and crunchy in slaw, as a sweet and sour accompaniment to pork loin, and stuffed and seared. His modernist recipes are worth a try— that is, if you can pull yourself away from the potlikker.