Deliciousness in an Unexpected Place from Wellspent Market
Proponents of a healthful diet regularly exhort us to eat more leafy greens. Packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, their purported benefits might reduce the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and even mental decline! While all of that is fine, I eat greens because they’re delicious. Here’s my favorite way to make them, inspired by a dish I ate at the Atlanta airport (not what I was expecting either, but trust me).
I first tasted Southern-style collard greens years ago during a long layover in the Atlanta airport. Back then airports didn’t have Shake Shack, Texas-style barbecue, or James Beard award-winning chefs, so I was thrilled to find real vegetables alongside southern classics like fried catfish at a place called Paschal’s.
Opened in 1947 by brothers James and Robert Paschal, sons of sharecroppers intent on not picking cotton, the restaurant became a meeting place for the leaders of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Activists would gather to decompress at Paschal’s after demonstrations, and the brothers kept the restaurant open all night so any protesters getting out of jail would have a place to meet their families. They would often post bonds and serve free meals for demonstrators.
Paschal’s moved years ago, and the original building is crumbling, but its historic importance has saved it from the wrecking ball so far. You can still get collard greens at the new restaurant and the multiple locations in airports around the country.
Smothering is the Southern cooking technique of slow, brothy simmering, a form of stovetop braising. Smoky meat traditionally boosted the flavor of smothered collard greens, but most of the time I cook greens without meat, using onion, olive oil, soy sauce, and vinegar to make the bright, umami-filled broth they call pot likker in the South.
Start by cooking onion in olive oil while you chop the greens, stems and all. Add the collards to the pot along with water, apple cider vinegar, and soy sauce. Cover and cook until the greens are very soft and tender, about 30-40 minutes. Serve with Crystal hot sauce.