BEANS AND GREENS WITH CORN DODGERS
Soulful and comforting, Beans And Greens With Corn Dodgers is a healthy, nutritious dish that works as a side dish, a soup, a light dinner, or as a first course.
Collards and spinach are stewed until silky in a flavorful broth with ham, creamy white beans, and tender, cornmeal dumplings. Even your veggie-haters will love this dish!
Every Southern cook has a recipe for ‘greens’. Who thought of cooking bitter, tough greens in a broth until they become tender and silky in texture, lose their bitterness, and become so flavorful and satisfying. Adding ham, white beans, and a corn dodger dumpling turns a simple pot of stewed greens into a complete, soothing, healthy, and incredibly delicious meal.
WHAT IS A CORN DODGER?
I learned how to make a great pot of greens when I moved to the South. Collard greens were a favorite of my beloved father-in-law and I adored making them for him.
He often shared with me that his mother would use cornmeal to make dumplings that she would boil in the liquid from the collard greens. Pop loved eating them and that sent me on a mission to make him something similar.
Upon Googling ‘corn dodger’, I discovered that the recipes were scarce and the ones that I found were varied. Some dodgers were baked, some fried, and others were boiled.
John Wayne packed baked corn dodgers in his side saddle in the movie, “True Grit”. His corn dodgers were unleavened, baked cornbread that was cut into squares. While the movie trivia was interesting, it wasn’t what I was looking for.
I found a vintage soul food recipe that sounded like what Pop spoke about with such fondness. They were a mixture of flour and cornmeal and boiled. When I made the dumplings for him, they weren’t exact, but pretty close. It was a hit with Pop and became a staple in my meal rotation.
WHAT ARE COLLARD GREENS?
Fresh collard greens are a Southern staple. They’re a member of the cabbage family with dark green leaves and a tough stem. Collards can be a bit bitter with a flavor similar to swiss chard.
They have more chlorophyll than other leafy greens that are full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Also, they hold up well to being stewed, which mellows out the bitterness and softens the leaves without making them mushy.
HOW TO BUY AND CLEAN COLLARDS
When buying your collard greens, look for dark green leaves that are not too thick and tough. The stem should be firm and crisp.
Collards can be very sandy. The best way to wash them is to remove the stem and then submerge the collard leaves into a bowl of cold water. Swirl them around and allow the sand to fall to the bottom of the bowl. Lift the greens out of the water to dry. Don’t pour the greens and dirty water into a colander. You’ll have dirty collards again.
A huge time saver is to buy a bag of collards. They have the stem removed and the leaves are washed and chopped. Perfect!
INGREDIENTS FOR BEANS AND GREENS WITH CORN DODGERS
- Bacon – you actually only need the bacon fat, but the crisp bacon makes a great garnish.
- Onions and garlic
- White wine – you only need a cup, so get a wine that you enjoy drinking.
- Chicken broth – use unsalted because you can never be sure how much salt the ham will have. This way, you can control the seasonings.
- Ham base – I like using ‘Better Than Bouliion’ brand. This is optional but adds a nice flavor to the broth.
- Collard greens and baby spinach – I like to use both. The spinach is more tender and sweeter and adds nice texture and flavor to the dish.
- Cannellini beans – You could also use Great Northern Beans as well. Drain and rinse them well.
- Lemon – both the zest and the juice. It adds brightness to the greens.
- Ham – I used chopped diced ham that I bought in the aisle with the bacon and sausage. If you have a ham bone, use that to flavor the broth and then remove any bits of ham meat on the bone.
- Self-rising flour
- Fine yellow cornmeal
- Brown sugar
- Salt and pepper
HOW DO I MAKE THIS RECIPE?
Luckily for us, allowing the greens to stew in the broth does most of the work.
First, render the fat from the bacon and saute the onions and garlic in the fat.
Deglaze the pan with white wine and pour in the chicken broth and ham base. This is what will become the ‘potlikker’.
Stew the greens, then add the beans, lemon, and ham.
Next, stir the batter for the dodgers.
Spoon the batter into the pot with the greens and allow to cook.
SO, WHAT IS POTLIKKER ANYWAY?
Pot liquor, or potlikker, is the highly flavored, concentrated cooking liquid from the greens. This liquid is full of vitamins and minerals from the greens.
Enslaved people often saved this liquid after cooking their owner’s greens. It was used as a base for soups, liquid for cornbread, or as a braising liquid for other lesser quality meats.
Today, Southern cooks use potlikker in much the same way-as soups, flavorings, or a sippable ‘pick-me-up’.
MORE SOUTHERN RECIPES TO TRY
- Extra Crispy Bourbon Fried Chicken
- Baked Nashville Hot Chicken
- Alabama Shrimp And Grits
- Meaty Red Beans And Rice
- Spicy Southern Corn Casserole
- Southern Potato Salad
- Classic Macaroni And Cheese
- Southern Fried Okra
- Southern Cornbread Salad
- Southern Style Coleslaw
- Southern Hushpuppies
BEANS AND GREENS WITH CORN DODGERS
For the beans and greens:
- 2 slices bacon, chopped
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 cup dry white wine (I used a chardonnay)
- 2 (32-ounce) containers of unsalted chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon ham base (I used Better Than Boullion)
- 16-ounce bag chopped collard greens
- 6-ounce bag fresh baby spinach
- 2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- ½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 pound package low salt diced ham
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the corn dodgers:
- ⅔ cup self-rising flour
- ⅓ cup fine yellow cornmeal
- 2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon butter, softened
- ½ cup milk
- In a large soup pot, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until the fat has rendered out and the bacon is crispy.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon pieces and reserve them as a garnish or use them for another recipe.
- Saute the onion and garlic in the bacon fat until the onions are translucent - about 8 minutes.
- Pour in the white wine to deglaze the pan and bring to a full rolling boil. Boil for 1 minute and then add the chicken broth and ham base.
- Add the collard greens and spinach.
- Cover the pot, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes until the greens have wilted and are very tender.
- Stir in the beans, lemon zest, lemon juice, and diced ham. Cook for another 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, stir together the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
- Use a fork to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like damp sand.
- Whisk in the milk until well combined. Allow the mixture to rest and thicken for 5 minutes
- Taste the potlikker and adjust for salt and pepper.
- Bring the pot of greens to a soft boil.
- Use a teaspoon to slide balls of dough into the simmering liquid.
- Cover the pot and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Serve hot.