These greens are finished in a deeply smoky-flavored, pale pink gravy — without using any bacon.
If you wish, 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes can be used in place of the dried chili peppers.
• 8 cups water
• 3 dried chili peppers
• 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
• 3 3/4 pounds (about 72 leaves or 3 bunches) collard greens
• 1 large onion, trimmed and quartered
• 1 large tomato, cored, seeded and quartered
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
• 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 3 cloves unpeeled garlic
In a large stockpot, bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the chili peppers and 1 tablespoon salt. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes, or until the stock has a nice salty spiciness.
Wash the collard greens thoroughly to remove all grit, and remove/discard the ribs. Add a few handfuls of collard greens to the pot. Submerge them with a spoon and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until they have turned bright green. As they become more compact, add more greens and repeat the process until they are all submerged, cooking for 6 to 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting, uncovered, and make a note of what time it is.
Preheat the broiler, set an oven rack about 3 inches from its heat and have ready a cast-iron skillet.
While the greens are cooking, place the onion and tomato quarters in a medium bowl. Drizzle olive oil and vinegar over them; add 1 teaspoon salt, the paprika and the pepper, and toss to coat evenly. Transfer the vegetables to a medium cast-iron skillet and add the garlic. Broil the vegetables for 6 to 8 minutes until they are well charred. Set the skillet on the stovetop to cool.
Discard the garlic cloves’ charred papery peels and place the garlic in a food processor, along with the charred vegetables and their juices. Puree for 3 minutes or until quite smooth. (You should have 1 1/2 cups puree.) Using a ladle, remove 6 cups of stock from the collards pot (that will be just about all the liquid that is left; discard or save for later use). Add the puree and continue to cook the greens over lowest heat for 1 hour from the point at which you noted the time. The greens will be tender and a very dark matte green.
Use a slotted spoon to divide among individual plates, and serve with a hot pepper sauce or homemade vinegar sauce at the table.
Source: The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook by Matt Lee and TedLee (2006)