This simple sauté was inspired by my love of two Southern classics, corn pudding and slowly braised collards with bacon. You start by crisping some bacon, then quickly sauté the corn and the collards in the bacon drippings. The trick to quick-cooked collards is cutting them into very thin ribbons and giving them a whirl in a hot pan until they’re bright green and slightly wilted. The finishing touch of a cider vinegar-maple syrup dressing brings all of the flavors together. —EmilyC
Test Kitchen Notes
I love slow cooked collard greens, which the author said inspired this recipe. The difference is these collards are cooked just for a moment - so they're bright green and still maintain a bit of crunch. Slicing the greens into thin ribbons is brilliant. And the flavor profile here is outstanding - the richness of butter and bacon, a tiny kick from crushed red pepper and green onions, zing from lemony thyme, and the sweet crunch of fresh corn. Then to bring it all together, a vinegar and maple syrup vinaigrette. This recipe is perfect as is. —Pinch&Swirl
3 thick-cut slices bacon (about ¼ pound), cut into small rectangles or lardons
1 T unsalted butter
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
¼ cup thinly sliced scallions (white and light green parts only)
1½ cups fresh corn kernels (from about 2 to 3 ears), or substitute frozen corn (thawed)
1 ½ pounds collard greens
kosher salt + freshly ground black pepper
2 T apple cider vinegar
1 tsp maple syrup
In This Recipe
To prep your corn: Shuck your corn and remove the silks. Cut the kernels from the cob using your favorite technique and set them aside in a bowl. Take the cobs, and with the back of your knife, scrape down the entire length of each cob to extract the milk. Let the milk fall into the bowl of reserved corn.
To prep your collards: With a sharp knife, cut the stem from each collard leaf, then divide the leaf in half to easily cut away the stem running down the middle. Discard the stems. Next, stack a pile of the leaves, tightly roll them into a cigar shape, and cut crosswise into 1/8” ribbons. Repeat with remaining collard leaves. Wash the collard ribbons in several changes of water to remove any dirt or debris clinging to them. Pat dry with a kitchen or paper towel, or give them a whirl in your salad spinner to remove excess water (to prevent them from steaming).
In a small bowl, whisk together the apple cider vinegar and maple syrup.
Heat a 12-inch skillet or sauté pan over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the bacon lardons and cook about 4 to 5 minutes, until they’ve rendered their fat and are lightly crisp. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, remove the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate, leaving the bacon fat in the pan.
Add the butter and when it melts and sizzles, add the red pepper flakes and lightly toast them for about 20 seconds, then add the green onions, thyme, and a pinch of kosher salt. Saute them about 2 minutes over medium heat, then add the corn and continue sautéing for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the collards, a pinch of salt and pepper, and using tongs, toss the collards until they're evenly coated with the bacon fat and butter. Saute just until the collards begin to wilt and turn bright green and glossy, about two minutes. Taste for tenderness; you don’t want to overcook the collards or they’ll become tough. (Saute the collards in two batches if necessary, making sure to remove all of your previous corn and collards from the pan so they don't become overcooked.)
Take the pan off the heat, and add the vinegar-syrup dressing and stir well; taste for seasoning. Toss in the bacon. Transfer to a serving platter and serve immediately.