Why You Should Add Bacon To Your Collards This Thanksgiving

Round out the flavors of your holiday table.

Southern-Style Collard Greens
Photo: Jim Franco; Prop Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller; Food Styling: Simon Andrews

Sure, the turkey is the centerpiece of the traditional Thanksgiving meal, but it's the side dishes that are the true unsung heroes of the feast. The variety of classic offerings—from sweet potato casserole and cranberries to dressing and macaroni and cheese—are worthy of their own plateful.

Use Collards as Greens for Thanksgiving

What's a Southern-style spread without collards? Consider greens for Thanksgiving as a versatile, tried-and-true veggie that are easy to cook—put them in a stew, add them to a casserole, or serve them on their own. Editor-at-Large Virginia Willis reminds us that healthy and delicious collards are staples of Southern cooking. Another bonus of collard greens: They can be prepped ahead of time, giving a busy host one less worry on Thanksgiving Day.

Add Bacon to Your Collards

While many collard greens recipes call for ham hocks, try adding bacon to your stockpot this year. Much like ham, the fat from the bacon gives the greens a smoky, rich flavor. It also provides extra salt and gives the greens a tender texture. Guests will return for seconds (and thirds) for these delicious, flavorful greens.

Steps to Your Bacon-Collard Triumph

  • Choose thick-cut bacon, and chop the strips into cubes.
  • Cook them in a cast-iron skillet or large saucepan, just until the fat renders.
  • Discard the bacon grease for another use, and add the bacon chunks to the pot of collard greens.
  • Preparing the greens in a slow cooker frees up space on the stove-top, and the additional time it takes to cook them will allow the flavors to mix even more.
  • When they're done, serve them plain, or dress them up with a delicious topping like homemade chowchow.

Versatile Collard Greens

The idea of adding bacon to your collards will amp up the flavor of these sweet greens, a Southern staple with a flavor that rises above the bitter taste of mustard or turnip greens. In fact, collards can be cooked the same way you would spinach or cabbage, so they work as a replacement in some recipes. Take your traditional celebratory spinach dip and use collards instead. You will end up with a cheesy appetizer that everyone will love.

When considering greens for Thanksgiving, go beyond the main meal and consider how you might work some collards into other pieces of your holiday. What about serving strata for breakfast and including collards in that dish? A side salad could definitely use the collard treatment, and you could definitely include collards in your mashed potato plan.

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