Any Southerner will tell you that you must eat greens on New Year’s day. It insures prosperity in the year to come (and black eyed peas) for luck. And if you got a big pot of greens to serve up, you just have to have some cornbread to go with it. So here, I have combined the two into a lovely casserole in the style of a savory bread pudding. Frozen chopped greens are a perfect shortcut and the cornbread is really easy to make from scratch.
To serve this on New Year’s Day, I usually whip up the pan of cornbread on December 30, assemble the casserole New Year’s Eve, and pop it in the oven on New Year’s Day. I prefer to cover the cornbread pan with a tea towel to leave overnight. Day-old cornbread soaks up the custard and creates a light and fluffy texture. Plus, it makes assembling the final result simpler. For your black eyed pea fix, try Hoppin’ John Salad with Bourbon Sorghum Salad, or Slow Cooker Southern Black Eyed Peas, both of which would be a perfect match with the pudding. I have to say though, don’t limit this dish to New Year’s only, it’s a fabulous side for roast pork loin, or an excellent brunch dish.
You can use this recipe as a template and tailor it to your own tastes. Leave out the bacon and sauté the vegetables in olive oil for a meat-free version. Or stir in some chopped county ham instead of bacon. Use a red bell pepper instead of green to add a little color. Add a finely chopped hot pepper to the vegetables, up the amount of hot sauce or add a dash or red pepper flakes. You add some freshly chopped herbs and switch up the cheese with parmesan.
Collard Cornbread Pudding
For the Cornbread:
1 cup coarse yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
For the Pudding:
1 (14-ounce) bag frozen chopped collard greens
4 strips of bacon
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
2 ½ cups milk
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon hot sauce
lots of freshly ground black pepper
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
For the Cornbread:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease an 8 by 8 inch square pan.
Whisk the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a medium mixing bowl. Stir in the egg, milk and oil until the batter is well combined, with no dry ingredients visible. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes, until firm and lightly golden and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.
The cornbread can be made up to one day ahead and kept covered loosely with a tea towel on the counter.
For the Pudding:
Place the collards in a large, deep skillet and cover with water by about an inch. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer the greens for 20 minutes. Drain the greens through a colander, pressing out excess liquid with a spatula.
Wipe out the skillet, then cook the bacon strips until crispy. Remove to paper towels to drain. Drain all but two tablespoons bacon grease from the pan, then add the onion, celery and bell pepper and cook over medium-high heat until soft and glassy. Stir in the garlic and cook one minute more. Remove from the heat and stir in the collard greens, separating them and making sure the vegetables are well distributed in the greens. Break the cornbread into small pieces and add to the greens, stirring to distribute everything evenly. Chop the bacon into small pieces and stir into the mix. Turn the mixture into a 3-quart baking dish and leave to cool.
Whisk the eggs and milk together in a bowl, then whisk in the hot sauce, salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the cornbread and greens and leave to soak for 15 minutes. Sprinkle the cheese over the top, cover and refrigerate for at least one hour, but up to 12 is fine.
When ready to bake, take the pudding out of the fridge to take some chill off while you preheat the oven to 350°. Bake the pudding until puffed and golden, about 30 – 40 minutes. Serve warm.
Serves 8 – 10