Couve a Mineira aka Brazilian collard greens with ham hocks is a quick, flavorful side dish. This easy collard greens recipe is great as a weeknight side.
What is couve a mineira?
Couve is a national recipe in Brazil and is served regularly for different occasions, but definitely more everyday. It is made with thinly cut collard greens and quickly fried in a very garlicky olive oil in its basic execution. But as you can imagine depending on location, tradition or creativity there are versions that go beyond the base. For most iterations its merely a question of whether bacon or some other type of pork fat is used to flavor the dish further and/or add additional texture. Salty, smoky bacon is most common, but this recipe calls for ham hocks
Culinary History of Couve
The Minas Gerais region of Brazil is the home for the origin of couve. The northern part of this region borders Bahia which is where many African slaves were held. Not surprisingly, Africans have had a huge impact culturally among other things in Brazil and particularly in northern Minas Gerais. From a culinary perspective the heavy garlic and onion presence is directly tied to African cuisine.
How to cut the collards
Collards in this recipe need to be cut into thin shreds. Visually think of what paper that goes through a shredder looks like. In order to get those thin shreds there are just a few considerations.
- Use a sharp knife
- Roll the leaves like a cigar, making sure they are rolled tightly
- Using your knife, starting with the front edge of the collards cigar, slice as thin as you can working your way down to the butt of the cigar.
How to Cook Couve
Great couve is about really infusing the oil with lots of flavor before adding the greens. The cook time for the greens is really short, so the more flavor in the oil, the better. 3 sources of flavor
- Ham hocks provide a meaty smokiness, similar to what you get in traditional southern collard greens. However instead of stewing in a pot, the hocks are fried in a skillet releasing their flavor as well as crisping up for some texture.
- Garlic and onions are essential. The garlic, of which there are a lot, are the essence of the recipe. It, well, makes these very garlicky and provides an unbelievable aroma.
- Salt and pepper are really all the seasoning you need in terms of spice. However, if you forgo the ham hocks for more of a vegan dish a good smoked paprika makes for a great alternative.
To actually cook, heat the olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat for about a minute, then add the ham hocks, garlic, and onions. Sauté until aromatic, about 3-4 minutes, then add the collard greens, salt, and pepper.
Reduce heat to med low and continue to sauté until the greens are softened and vibrant in color. Should only take another 3-4 minutes.
Watch how to make Couve
Couve Cooking tips
- Separate the shreds of collards as much as possible using your fingers. If the collards are tangled and stuck together, they become harder to manipulate and fry when cooking
- To save time and effort use a food processor to chop the ham hocks
- Saute the hocks, garlic and onion at low temps to infuse the olive oil with flavor
- Toss the greens in the pan frequently to ensure all the greens get cooked evenly and coated with the oil. Quickly season with salt and pepper after the greens have wilted a little bit.
- For a vegan version drop the ham hocks, add a bit more garlic and smoked paprika for that smoky replacement for the hocks.
What to serve with Couve
These greens can be served with pretty much anything. A typical Brazilian meal will pair couve a mineira with feijoada, which is a black bean and pork stew, and coconut rice. If you’re not going full on Brazilian night, pair them with whatever would with normal collard greens. For me it might be Blackened Chicken or Brined Pork Chops.
Making Brazilian Collard Greens
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If you like this couve, check out these other collard greens recipes:
- 2 pounds collard greens 2 to 3 large bunches, stems removed
- 5 to 6 cloves garlic minced
- 1 onion diced
- 2 ham hocks meat removed and diced into small piece
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Wash the collard greens well and drain. Stack a few leaves at a time, then roll them tightly into a cigar. Thinly slice the leaves crosswise into thin shreds.
- Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the ham hocks, onions, garlic and salt, cooking and stirring until the mixture is highly aromatic, about 4-5 minutes.
- Add the greens, and sauté 3 or 4 minutes until they are bright green in color and starting to soften. Using tongues stir them as necessary to mix the greens well with the hocks, garlic and onions.
- Season greens with more salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.