Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Creamy Winter Greens with Lardons

We are seeing glimpses of Spring in the High Country, but at dinner time, it is still winter. I'd love to be cooking artichokes and asparagus and grilling every night, but those days seem a ways away. Instead, last weekend I served my sister and her husband Thomas Keller's brined pork tenderloin (abysmal failure to be the subject of a separate post). He recommended winter greens as a side dish. I adapted
this Epicurious recipe and paired it with my Smoked Gouda grits. The meal was saved by my rocking sides!

As with many Epicurious recipes, the amount of fat included was a little over the top. Do you really need 3/4 stick of butter, 2 cups of whole milk, a half cup of heavy cream and copious amount of pork fat to make greens taste good? I added big flavor and texture with lardons made from the last of my homemade bacon and cut about a third of the other fat.
As my brother-in-law said, anyone can make a pork tenderloin taste good but making a winter greens dish that everyone loves is considerably tougher.

Creamy Winter Greens with Lardons

  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons shallot,minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 3 1/2 pounds mixed winter greens such as collards, turnip greens, and kale
  • 6 ounces slab bacon, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices, then cut crosswise into 1-inch squares
  • 1 cup onion,finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar


  1. Make a béchamel sauce by melting 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk to combine. Cook the butter and flour mixture for about 1 minute.
  2. Add the milk in a slow and steady stream, whisking until there are no lumps. Add the shallot and the white pepper and bring the mixture to a low boil.
  3. Simmer, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. If you are not ready to combine the sauce with the greens, cool slightly and cover with plastic wrap or parchment paper to avoid developing a skin.
  4. Make sure you wash your greens thoroughly. This is best done by soaking them in your clean and shiny sink. Spin dry. Discard the stems and center ribs from the greens, then coarsely chop the leaves.
  5. Cook the lardons in a wide 6- to 8-quart heavy pot over medium heat, turning occasionally, until golden-brown but not crisp, about 15 minutes. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain, then pour off the fat from the pot and wipe it clean with a paper towel.
  6. Heat the remaining 1/4 stick butter in the pot over medium-low heat until the butter is browned and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and stir. Cook until the vegetables are softened, about 3 minutes.
  7. Increase the heat to medium-high, then stir in greens, one handful at a time, letting each handful wilt before adding the next.
  8. Add the béchamel sauce, red-pepper flakes, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and boil, uncovered, stirring, until sauce coats greens and greens are tender, about 30 minutes.
  9. Stir in the lardons, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.
Yield: 6 servings
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 15 minutes

My skinny sister went back for seconds.

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