Here’s How a Pair of Brooklyn BBQ Pitmasters Cook Up Collard Greens
Matt Abdoo and Shane McBride of Pig Beach share the recipe for Gowanus Greens from their new cookbook
A member of the brassica family that also includes highly nutritious vegetables like kale and broccoli, collard greens are sturdy, versatile and sneaky delicious when cooked long, low and slow with a ham hock or bacon for seasoning.
That’s exactly how Matt Abdoo and Shane McBride do it at their BBQ haven Pig Beach in Brooklyn alongside the Gowanus Canal, except their greens have some extra add-ins that aren’t always found in the traditional dish, including bits and pieces of leftover brisket or pulled pork.
McBride, who just released the Pig Beach BBQ Cookbook: Smoked, Grilled, Roasted, and Sauced along with his co-author Abdoo, grew up eating his grandmother’s collard greens which drew on a recipe she was taught in South Florida. “Collard greens have to be cooked to death so they’re nice and tender and vinegary with some heat. For me, it’s all about the spice and the vinegar bite. My grandmother made them with pepper vinegar,” McBride tells InsideHook. “Collards are usually the acceptable vegetable at a BBQ restaurant. Their acidity complements the heavy meats. They’re kind of heavy on their own, but that acid balances out rich barbecue a little bit better than corn on the cob.”
For Abdoo, who believes the biggest mistake one can make with collards is not cooking them long enough resulting in a tough and fibrous bite, the acidity from the vinegar is also a major selling point. “Whenever you’re eating very rich, heavy food, acid is always a great way to break up each bite,” he says. “The acid helps to create more room in your belly to eat more as your diving into all the delicious smoked meats and sides. People often don’t add enough vinegar to their greens when they’re cooking them and they just have a flat flavor to them. A good amount of vinegar really helps the flavor of the collard greens themselves pop and shine.”
Named after Pig Beach’s first location in NYC (a second edition of the restaurant opened in Long Island City earlier this year), McBride and Abdoo’s Gowanus Greens are also somewhat of a playful homage to the nearby canal. “There were times when we first moved into the space where the canal kind of looked like the basic liquid of the collard greens as we were cooking them. You would see some green stuff floating in it or some brown stuff floating in it or some whatever floating in it,” Abdoo says. “The greens look like the canal water but in the most delicious way possible. When Gowanus becomes the most sought-after waterfront property in all of New York City, we’re all gonna be eating our words on the joke.”
To rinse out the taste of eating words, or anything else, McBride is a fan of drinking the potlikker (sometimes spelled pot liquor or pot likker) that is left behind after slow-cooking the greens for multiple hours. “A potlikker martini is a pretty good drink. It’s like a mix between a bull shot — a bloody Mary made with beef stock — and a dirty martini. In between all those flavors is where a potlikker martini sits,” he says.
To see where you stand with the martini and McBride and Abdoo’s collards in general, try their recipe.
Gowanus Greens, AKA Pig Beach Collards
- 3 slices bacon, diced
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 1½ cups diced white onion
- 2 pounds collard greens, well washed, dried, and cut into shreds
- 5½ cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
- ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup Frank’s RedHot hot sauce
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon roasted chicken base. Better Than Bouillon roasted beef base (and other flavors, such as chicken and vegetable) is available from most supermarkets, specialty food stores and online.
- Place a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the bacon and oil and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes or until the bacon is crisp and its fat has rendered. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes or until the garlic is golden brown and very aromatic.
- Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until the onion is soft and translucent.
- Add the collards, about 4. cups of the stock, the vinegar, hot sauce, soy sauce, Worcestershire, and chicken base and stir to blend well. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook for about 3 hours or until the collards are very soft and tender. You may need to add the additional 1 cup stock to maintain a nice, cornbread- sopping broth.
- Remove from heat and serve. The recipe serves six to eight and is even better if you throw in bits of leftover brisket.
From Pig Beach BBQ Cookbook by Matt Abdoo and Shane McBride. Copyright © 2022 by Matt Abdoo and Shane McBride. Reprinted by permission of Harvest, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
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