These greens are like the greens you can get at a barbecue restaurant in southeastern North Carolina during a hurricane. The kind of greens you eat in a parking lot of a roadside collard shack as the outer bands of Hurricane Matthew roar closer - when the air is heavy and wet, rain falling in a metered drizzle.
Except these greens aren’t served with whole-roasted hog, crispy skin chopped into it outside on a hog-sized plank of wood - nor a piece of hot cornbread that’s drier than you thought it’d be but does well to soak up the sweet, viscous liquor of the greens with several gulps of vinegary barbecue sauce.
But you can eat them like that if you want to. Or you can curl up with a bowl of them and let it seduce you into a hearty, wintery embrace - slightly smoky from the paprika, slightly sweet from the deeply caramelized onions, slightly spicy from almost too much black pepper. They get sticky as they sit in the pan, the sauce slowly thickening, the onions releasing their juices.
There’s no pork in these and that’s the point. It’s not necessary. Cook them right and they’ll be good. Cook them in an old cast iron pan, still dirtied from the last six times you went camping, and they’ll be better. Or add some pork if you want to. It’s your life.
We used kale for this recipe, but any green will do. They’ll each add a unique texture - chard, like spinach, will wilt quickly and brown and might get a little mushy (not a bad thing). Kale & collards will hold their structure and get a little chewy (in a good way).
Yield: 2-4 servings as a side dish
In a cast iron pan (or any heavy-bottomed pan will do), heat olive oil over medium heat.
Add sliced red onion, black pepper, and a pinch of salt. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onions caramelize. This should take about 10 minutes - you want the onions to brown and soften until they’re translucent. Watch carefully and stir to keep from burning.
Add the greens, some more salt, and the paprika. Stir to incorporate the onions, then add the stock or water.
Turn down the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the water evaporates and the sauce becomes reddish and thick. Season with salt to taste, then zest the lemon over the top.
Serve right away, or store and re-heat before serving.
1 large bunch kale, collards, or Swiss chard (stems removed, torn or very roughly chopped)
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp fresh-ground black pepper
1/4 cup vegetable stock or water
1/2 lemon, zested
salt to taste