Lekker: Bacon Braised Collard Greens

As you may recall, I was born and partially raised in South Africa--hence the "SouthAfricanBokkie" tag that shows up here, and elsewhere. "Bokkie" is a South African slang word for "darling" or "sweetie". After my family moved to the States, though, we settled in Florida and I grew up absorbing some of what it is to be a "Southern girl." My best girlfriends Lilypad and Tiny Bird emulate this infinitely more than I ever could, especially Lilypad with her pearl necklaces and sweet, preppy sundresses and sorority sisters, but a few things did stick--sweet tea, church on Sundays (well, sometimes), country music and a STELLAR pair of boots. I've been known to slip into my Southern drawl from time to time, as well, especially when sweet tea vodka is involved!

I was feeling rather in touch with my Southern-girl side this past weekend and craved some good old fashioned comfort food, this time taking the form of these bacon braised collard greens. EVERYONE down South knows how to prepare these 'dam good eats', and now you will, too. 

Oh, and ladies? If you've never dated a true Southern gentleman...FIND ONE. Trust me. Just trust me.

 South African by birth, Southern by the grace of...a green card? Close enough.

Bacon Braised Collard Greens
serves 4

What You Need
1 bag (16 ounces) collard greens, pre-cut and pre-washed because I am lazy and the child of American convenience
8 ounces applewood smoked thick cut bacon, chopped (I used Trader Joe's "Ends and Pieces" since they are the thickest cuts of bacon I can ever find)
1 large onion, sliced
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus a pinch more for finishing
1 dash cinnamon (trust me on this)
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup apple cinder vinegar
S&P, to taste

What You Do
1. In a large pot (collards will wilt way down as they cook, but at first they're pretty huge and you'll want to make sure you have enough room to stuff them all in there) over medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring often, until most of the fat has rendered out and the bacon is crisp. Remove the bacon using a slotted spoon to drain on some paper towels.

2. In all that delicious bacon fat, toss in your onions and cook for about 5 minutes or until they're soft and golden. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute or so. Add the red pepper flakes and cinnamon and stir well to combine. Now's the time when you stuff in all those collard greens and stir constantly until they turn bright green and are well immersed with the onions and bacon fat. Turn the heat to low and add the chicken broth. Cover and simmer at a bare simmer for about 15-20 minutes, stirring often.Monitor the liquid content as you go; you don't want it to dry out, but if it's looking too liquidy, just take the cover off to evaporate some.

3. When they're tender to the bite and dark green (and smell AHMAZING), add in the crisped bacon and the vinegar and stir all together to combine. Turn off the heat and let it sit covered for about 5 minutes. I find that the sodium of the bacon and the chicken broth is PLENTY salty, but feel free to taste and adjust at this stage.

I am so mad about these I just want to eat a whole big bowlful for dinner with a couple of slices of toasted, buttered bread--but you can also serve this with those Perfect Mashed Potatoes we talked about, and sausage or two.