It's like a war cry shouted by nutritionists, dietitians, doctors, and mothers all around the world. Eat your greens!
You know they're right. You know that eating dark, leafy greens reduces the risk of heart disease, blood clots, obesity, and high blood pressure. You also know they're packed with minerals and vitamins A, B9, C, and K. But, the child in all of us whines petulantly, "They don't taste good!" Well, that all depends upon how you cook 'em.
Braising greens with various pork products may not be what the doctor had in mind, but it is how it's always been done in the South. Traditionally simmered for hours (collards) with smoked ham hocks, these days greens are often cooked with hunks of country ham, thick sliced bacon, or (staying vegetarian) just a lump of butter and seasonings. Regardless of the preparation, eating Southern-style greens is a delicious way to get your vitamins, and don't you dare discard the juice, or pot likker as it's commonly called. Wars have erupted over less.
Located on the corner of Poydras and Tchoupitoulas Streets, Mother's Restaurant has been offering turnip greens for decades. Known for their "World's Best" baked and butchered-in-house ham, Mother's has plenty of ham bones, fat, and other trimmings to make their greens that much better. Side note—the corner restaurant also sells their bones and trimmings, so folks can create their own delicious greens (or beans!) at home. Chopped onions, bell peppers, and their own blend of seasonings, their mustard greens come out flavorful and tender after simmering. Served alongside a quarter fried chicken and some of their stellar potato salad, it's a meal sure to sate the heartiest appetite.
In the historic Treme neighborhood just outside the French Quarter, Dookie Chase's Restaurant offers New Orleans-style soul food classics including "old-style" mustard greens. Made simply with a hunk of fatback or "streak-o-lean" (a.k.a. salt pork), ground black pepper, and salt, all you need is a few warm, cornbread muffins to soak up that irresistible, vitamin-rich pot likker.
For a more Cajun-slanted bowl of greens, visit the ever-popular Cochon Restaurant on Tchoupitoulas Street. Part of the Link Restaurant Group, Cochon is helmed (and co-owned) by James Beard award-winning chef Stephen Stryjewski, and you should definitely try anything coming out of his kitchens. Though Cochon Restaurant (not to be confused with Cochon Butcher) is one of the more expensive options, you can always keep it simple with a small plate of fried boudin and their smothered collard greens made with their own house-cured bacon, onion, garlic, sugar, hot sauce, and cider vinegar.
On a slightly different note, the Carrollton neighborhood favorite Boucherie on Jeannette Street uses duck stock in their greens. "I almost treat collards as a byproduct for pot likker," chef/owner Nathanial Zimet confided. After reducing duck stock to an almost sauce-like consistency, he adds washed and torn collard greens, and their own house made bacon for one of their most amazing dishes—collard greens and grit fries. Feel free to share this small plate with friends…or not!
Just a skip from the municipal courthouse on Broad Street, Marjie's Grill is a hip, super-casual spot with socially-conscious owners Caitlin Carney and chef Marcus Jacobs serving an amalgam of Thai, Vietnamese, and Gulf South cuisine. Their pit-braised greens are simmered with country ham, caramelized onions, and chili vinegar and go perfectly with a side of their warm, buttered cornbread. You also can never go wrong with an extra side of their coal-roasted sweet potatoes, but that's another article.
Finally, famed Lower Garden District lunch spot Turkey and the Wolf has taken collards to a whole new level: sandwich-style. Chef and owner Mason Hereford's culinary creativity has conjured up a sandwich to end all sandwiches; the Collard Green Melt. Featured on the Food Network and in Bon Appetit Magazine, this special sandwich has already had plenty of play, but mentioning it yet again, for those in the back who have yet to wrap their lips around it, doesn't hurt a damn thing. Simmered with butter, red wine vinegar, sugar, Creole seasoning, and crushed red pepper flakes, these vegetarian-style collards are piled onto rye or whole wheat with cabbage slaw, Russian dressing, and lots of Swiss, and toasted like a grilled cheese. At only $12, this is a meal to remember, especially with an added side of Spicy Crawtator Zapps and vanilla soft serve ice cream with rainbow sprinkles for dessert.