I had several titles for this recipe before I settled on this one. There was Collards Casserole. Baked Collards. Cheesy Collards with Eggs. I don’t even know if I like the one I actually picked, but I just got too damn tired of coming up with names for something I thought could speak for itself. So, feel free to call this whatever you’d like!
I grew up eating Slow Cooked Pork Shoulder, Sauteed Collard Greens, Black Eyed Peas, Stewed Tomatoes and Corn Muffins on New Years Day. I have eaten that same exact meal, every January 1st, for my entire life. It’s delicious and every year my family believes it will bring us more luck, money and prosperity. We usually all go to my mothers house and eat it. And this year was nothing different, but at home I had my own pork shoulder and bunch of collard greens that I needed to cook. I didn’t want to make the same thing we had just eaten days before, so I changed it up a bit.
I made my Milk Braised Pork Shoulder, which is something I’ve been making for years. The idea for the recipe came from Marcella Hazan’s Milk Braised Pork Loin. It’s an amazingly delicious dish and it was the perfect way to eat the same cut of meat in a totally different way. I highly suggest you give it a try. But for the collards, I wanted to create something new. I love the flavor of collard greens so much and didn’t want to make anything that would muddle those delicious flavors, so I thought mixing them with a custard and baking them with some cheese sounded just right.
This dish is a slightly different and a little healthier take on the creamed spinach idea. It’s more egg-y than cheesy, and more collard-y than anything else, but I happen to like it that way. If you want a more delicate dish, then I recommend cutting your greens into a smaller size and increasing the milk to about 1 1/2 cups so you get a creamier texture. But however you make this, I just suggest you do it before their season is gone. They’re so perfectly wonderful now.
*Collards in Custard
-Wash and de-stem 1 bunch (1 1/2 lbs) of collards and set aside on a towel to dry while you heat up a large saute pan with a little olive oil.
-When the pan is hot (med-high heat), add your greens and let them sit for 30 seconds or so in the hot pan before tossing and allowing the top layer to now touch the hot pan. You will think you have over-filled your pan, but fear not-they will wilt down tremendously.
-Season with several pinches of kosher salt, fresh black pepper and a lot of freshly grated nutmeg. Toss well. Add 4-5 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced.
-Once your garlic is fragrant and all of your greens have wilted, but have remained green and still have a bite to them, turn off your heat.
-Drain your collards and garlic in a colander, squeezing a bit if you have to and set aside while you make your custard.
-Grease a 1 1/2 quart baking dish, or a standard 9x9in pan.
-In a large mixing bowl, beat 5 large eggs until fluffly, season with a couple pinches of kosher salt and black pepper and a good squirt or spoonful of dijon mustard. Add 1 cup of milk and beat well.
-Add your cooled collards to your prepared pan and spread evenly.
-Sprinkle 5-6 ounces of grated, extra sharp cheddar cheese (white is prettiest, but I only had the yellow on hand) evenly over your greens.
-Pour your custard over, being sure to evenly distribute it. Gently press down with a spatula to make sure everything is coated and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 min-1 hour, or until your cheese is golden brown and bubbly and the center doesn’t jiggle when you shake it.