This recipe has taken far too long for me to share with everyone. It is one of my go-to side dishes, especially when I make Slow Cooker Pulled Pork. I am by no means Southern, nor have I even lived in the South but whenever I go to a BBQ joint, I am super bummed when they don’t have Southern Greens. To me, it is the ultimate side for barbecue. Gotta have my greens! Especially when eating a rich, high-fat meal full of slow cooked meat, having some nutrient rich greens on the side is always a delicious compliment. Plus, this recipe has 8 pieces of bacon in it, so even picky eaters who aren’t a big fan of leafy greens will find it irresistible.
While we are on the topic of bacon and before I get into this recipe, I wanted to take a moment to briefly talk about the recent WHO report about processed meat being linked to cancer. I say briefly because frankly, this type of “news” seems to appear fairly regularly these days and I am not all that surprised nor affected by reports such as this one. Why? I could go into a laundry list of reasons but mainly, there are two important issues to be aware of. First of all, I don’t look at health in a vacuum. Second of all, to group “processed meat” into one general category is extremely irresponsible and misinformed. Let’s break those two things down a bit…
What do I mean by looking at health in a vacuum? Well, health and longevity cannot be credited to any one single thing. It cannot be credited to diet alone, exercise alone, happiness alone… you get the picture. And, if it can’t be credited to any of those things, it certainly cannot be credited to a food group or a section of a food group, such as processed meats. An extremely healthy adult who has maintained a diet high in unprocessed, whole foods for their entire life is not going to experience the same effects of eating a few hot dogs as a child who is brought up eating nothing but highly processed foods and who has a diet void of critical nutrients. Reports such as the recent WHO report fail to distinguish between people with exceptionally different histories, lifestyles, genetics, age, sex, nationalities, etc. It is impossible to do a completely controlled study where you are adjusting for variables such as these because it would require round the clock constant monitoring of people over a long period of time. We can’t lock people in a room for a decade or more to ensure their lifestyles are identical to the other people in the study and to ensure there are no additional factors involved in the outcome. We don’t know whether or not these people are smokers, we don’t know how much they weigh, we don’t know what kind of diet they eat overall, we don’t really know anything other than that they eat processed meat. We don’t even know how often they eat processed meat other than what they report. But really, how do we even know they are telling the truth? Having gone through my own health journey and having worked with others as a health coach, I know first hand how many different factors are involved in achieving health. To vilify processed meat or any other single variable is extremely naive and irresponsible.
Second of all, let’s talk about the definition of “processed meat”. In essence, to group all processed meat or, even to group all meat together is misguided. If you purchase a pound of organic, grass-fed beef or a dozen organic, pastured eggs from your local farm, that meat is going to have an entirely different nutritional profile than meat from cows raised in a feed lot, fed preservative-laden GMO corn and grain and pumped with hormones and antibiotics for their entire life. We have absolutely no idea whether or not the people referenced in the WHO report followed a standard American diet and lifestyle or whether they followed a paleo or paleo-esque diet and lifestyle. I think it’s pretty safe to assume that most of them fell into the latter category. Individuals who eat organic, preservative-free “processed” meats such as hot dogs and salami should not be grouped in with people who frequent Taco Bell and McDonalds every day, for obvious reasons. Yet, the recent WHO report does not distinguish between these two very different types of people eating very different types of food. Given the two vastly different nutritional profiles and characteristics of these two very different types of food, we would need to distinguish between the two in order to conduct this research properly. Unfortunately, that is not what the WHO did.
Okay, so maybe that wasn’t very brief. But, before sharing a recipe with 8 pieces of bacon in it, I felt it needed to be addressed. It goes without saying that the bacon used in this recipe is organic, uncured bacon from Whole Foods. Insert fist pump emoji here. 😉
- 2 bunches of collard greens, cut as a chiffonade
- 1 whole onion (red or yellow will do), sliced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 8 pieces of bacon
- 2 cups chicken broth
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Rinse collards and align the leaves on top of one another so that where each of the stems end and the leaves start are aligned.
- Gently roll all of the collard leaves as if you were rolling a large piece of paper.
- Slice the leaves starting at the top and working your way down to the stem so that each slice is about ½-1 inch thick. The result will be long, thin slices.
- Set collards aside.
- Cook bacon until crispy, remove from pan and set aside.
- In the same pan, sauté onions until semi-translucent.
- Push onions to the side and throw the minced garlic into the middle of the pan until fragrant.
- Mix onions and garlic together and add the chiffonade of collards, mixing well until the leaves are slightly softened.
- Once softened, crumble in the crispy bacon and add chicken broth, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
- Mix well and simmer with a lid for 45 minutes - hour until collard leaves have dulled.