Bacon, Collard and Manchego Melts

This is my first shot at trying to reproduce my absolute favorite sandwich from famous New Orleans eatery Cochon Butcher.  Their Buckboard Bacon Melt is unbelievable; I’m not quite there, but even part-way there is pretty damned good, especially on a brisk day early in the sailing season.  Early season also means the collards–one thing to survive year round, even through occasional polar vortexes–are about all you’re going to pull out of the garden.  So get your bacon and greens and head to the galley!

Happy skipper, finally out on the water again.  Grilled sandwiches make such great one-handed meals, with everything conveniently stuck together, if you can keep your potato chips out of the wind, that is.

Bacon, Collard & Manchego Melts

Per Sandwich:
1/4 pound thick bacon
2-3 good-sized collard leaves
3 ounces Manchego cheese (or a sharp white cheddar)
2 slices bread (rye, sourdough, or good-quality white)

1/2 cup or so liquid, like chicken broth
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
A few good pats of butter

It’s not a stereotype…we love our collard greens down here in the South!  They are the unfussy, easy-going cousin of kale, with all the nutrients and chewiness and heft, but less backtalk.  And they grow like weeds year round in the garden, a constant supply of fresh, healthy greens.

To prepare collards, give them a good rinse and then cut the thick stalk out of the middle.

Stack the leaves, fold over, and slice into thin ribbons, about 1/2″ wide.

Fry up your bacon — use a thick cut for these sandwiches so it still has some chewy meatiness even after it’s begun to crisp up.  The bacon that Cochon uses is home-cured and more like a good slice of ham but with bacon flavor.  Someday I will find such bacon.  Lift the slices out, draining well over the pan, and onto a paper towel.  Now comes the moment bacon drippings were made for…

This is the other reason we love our collards in the South…we cook ’em in bacon grease.  Throw the collard ribbons into the pan full of bacon grease and toss well to coat and start to wilt.  Then add a few tablespoons of liquid per 2-3 collard leaves (I used about 1/3 of a cup for the 7-8 leaves I cooked for three good sized sandwiches), give them a good shake of salt and grind of pepper, and reduce the heat to let them simmer down.  After about 5-10 minutes they will have softened considerably and be more of a pliable mass of greens.  For the liquid, plain old broth of any flavor works fine, even water in a pinch, but my favorite thing is to add a bit of pickle juice straight out of the pickle jar; the tangy vinegar and spices work so well with the bacon grease.

To assemble your sandwiches, lay about 1/4 lb’s worth of bacon on the bottom slice of bread, top with half the cheese and then collards.  I used rye bread this go around and that was a mistake; Cochon even specifies “on white bread” on their menu!  It was good, but the rye flavor didn’t help and kind of competed with the rest, so personally I vote for sourdough or white next time.

Throw the other half of the cheese on top of the collards and close up the sandwich.

Give the bacon/collard skillet a quick wipe down with a paper towel, but don’t actually wash it — this is what we call “seasoning” in the South!  Melt a good pat of butter in the skillet over medium-high heat and lay the sandwiches in.  Cover, reduce heat to low-medium and cook for about 3 minutes.  Flip, recover and give them another 3-5 minutes to melt the cheese and get the bread toasty.

Serve with good potato chips and bread and butter pickles — perhaps the ones who gave up their juice for the collards!  Happy one-handed sailing and dining.

One thought on “Bacon, Collard and Manchego Melts

  1. Pingback: Galley PiratesGreens O’Gratin

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