This collard greens soup with cornmeal dumplings is full of smoke, spice and soul

Aaron Hutcherson

THE WASHINGTON POST – In putting together a roundup of collard green recipes recently, my recipe developer wheels started spinning as I thought of other potential ways it could be used. I wanted to stray – slightly – from my usual Southern-style collard greens, and a soup with smoked sausage came to mind. Presumably because ground corn was on the brain as I was writing a guide on the topic, I decided on cornmeal dumplings as a worthy addition.

I love smoked sausage for its smoke and spice, both of which I’ve amped up in this recipe with the addition of smoked paprika and crushed red pepper flakes. Canned fire-roasted tomatoes lend even more smokiness and umami, and, combined with the andouille sausage, bring a Creole flair to this soul-food-inspired dish.

Ribbons of collard greens get sauteed to jump-start the cooking process and are then simmered until tender, the timing of which can vary depending on the greens themselves and how tender you like them.

With the base of the soup done, all that’s left are the cornmeal dumplings. I have no recollection of ever eating cornmeal dumplings before developing this recipe, but I now plan to add them to my regular rotation.

In this particular recipe, the dumplings offer subtly sweet relief from the robust, spicy soup. Toni Tipton-Martin included a recipe for collard greens with cornmeal dumplings in her award-winning book Jubilee, of which she wrote, “This is a totemic soul food dish”, as it evokes the classic soul food pairing of cornbread and collard greens. I used her recipe as a starting point for my dumplings, tweaking it slightly to streamline the steps and overall number of ingredients, among other things. Any coarseness of cornmeal will do, but I enjoy the balance of tenderness and texture a medium grind provides. I use olive oil instead of butter since the former is already called for in the soup recipe. And my cornmeal dumplings have a higher proportion of sugar for a slightly starker contrast against the spiciness of the soup.

Smoked sausage and collard greens soup with cornmeal dumplings. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

These ingredients combined with some flour, leavener, salt and liquid from the soup itself form the batter for the dumplings, which then get gently nestled into the simmering pot, just as you might slowly ease into a hot tub while holding a glass of Champagne. A small cookie scoop is great for forming the dumplings if you have it; otherwise, spoons will do.

The result is a bowl of warmth, comfort and soul that smacks you in the face with flavour.

SMOKED SAUSAGE AND COLLARD GREENS SOUP WITH CORNMEAL DUMPLINGS

Active time: 30 minutes

Total time: One hour 15 minutes

Four to six servings; makes about nine cups

Smoked sausage and smoked paprika fortify store-bought chicken stock for an intensely flavourful and smoky broth in which ribbons of collard greens are simmered until tender. Canned fire-roasted tomatoes add to the smokiness of the soup, and, combined with the andouille, bring a Creole flair to this soul food-inspired dish. Once the collard greens are tender, spoonfuls of cornmeal batter are nestled into the simmering broth and add a subtle sweetness to balance out the robust soup.

Storage Notes: Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days.

INGREDIENTS

For the soup

Two tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

12 ounces smoked sausage, diced

One bunch collard greens, washed, de-stemmed, if desired, and cut into One-quarter-inch thick ribbons

One small yellow onion, sliced

One teaspoon smoked paprika

Half teaspoon garlic powder

Half teaspoon ground black pepper

Half teaspoon kosher salt

One-quarter teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Four cups unsalted or low-sodium chicken stock

One can diced fire-roasted tomatoes

One cup water

For the dumplings

Three-quarter cup cornmeal, preferably medium grind

One-cup cup all-purpose flour

One teaspoon granulated sugar

Half teaspoon baking powder

Half teaspoon kosher salt

One tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS

Make the soup

In a Dutch oven or other large pot over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until it starts to brown, about five minutes. Add the collard greens, onion, paprika, garlic powder, black pepper, salt and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring regularly, until the vegetables soften and the onion starts to turn translucent, about five minutes.

Add the chicken stock, tomatoes and water to the pot, bring to a simmer, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat as needed to keep it at a simmer, until the collard greens are tender, anywhere from 45 minutes to one hour 30 minutes or more depending on the age of the greens and how much chew you want them to have. Scoop out half cup of the potlikker and set aside.

Make the dumplings

In a small bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and give it a stir. Whisk the olive oil and reserved potlikker into the dry ingredients until evenly combined.

Carefully spoon one heaping tablespoon of the dumpling batter at a time into the simmering soup at least one inch apart to get 12 dumplings, cover and simmer until the dumplings are cooked through, about 10 minutes. Ladle the soup into bowls, dividing the dumplings evenly among them and serve.

NUTRITION

Calories: 299; Total Fat: 16g; Saturated Fat: 4g; Cholesterol: 35mg; Sodium: 895mg; Carbohydrates: 28g; Dietary Fibre: 5g; Sugar: 5g; Protein: 14g.