Jerk cornbread & collards casserole recipe

This comforting make-ahead meal will have everyone coming back for seconds.

Story by Carrie Hirsch + photo by Butch Hirsch

November is the prime time of year to cook collard greens. Some people have come to the conclusion they “don’t like collards,” but by pairing them with a medley of other tasty ingredients, you will have those skeptics rethinking their position. You can prepare everything a day or two in advance and then bake the casserole right before your family or guests arrive, so don’t be intimidated by the length of the recipe.

The influences on Lowcountry cooking come from all over the world. Jerk sauce hails from the beautiful island of Jamaica in the Caribbean. The sauce is quickly made with ingredients found in most well-stocked pantries, with the exception of the key ingredient — Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper. These scorchers have a heat rating of 100,000-350,000 units of pungency on the Scoville Unit, so if you like heat, you will love this recipe. You’ll have some leftover jerk sauce to use on chicken, pork, pasta and rice. Be sure to wear gloves when working with your pepper of choice, or you will be sorry when your fingers are still burning after two days (but you will only do this once). On a nutritional note, peppers contain potent antioxidants.

Carrie HirschJerk Cornbread & Collards Casserole 

Serves 9

Ingredients (collard greens) 

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 

1 pound collard greens, chopped

1/2 onion, cut into 1/2″ dice

1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2″ dice

½ cup orange juice

Salt & black pepper to taste

Directions Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté collard greens, onion and red bell pepper for 5 minutes, stirring often. Stir in orange juice, salt and pepper to taste and continue to sauté for 3 more minutes, stirring often. 

Ingredients (jerk sauce)

(makes about 1 cup)

1 onion, coarsely chopped

6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

3 green onions, coarsely chopped 

1 Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped (wear gloves)

1/3 cup soy sauce 

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 teaspoons black pepper

2 teaspoons allspice

4 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon caraway seeds

1 tablespoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon salt  

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon water 

Directions Process all ingredients (except the last two) in a food processor for 1 minute. Add vegetable oil and water and process until well incorporated. Place the mixture in a small, heavy pot over medium heat. Bring to a low boil, reduce heat and allow to simmer (uncovered), stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes until dark brown in color. This recipe calls for 4 tablespoons, or to taste. Excess sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1-2 weeks. 

Ingredients (cornbread) 

2 8.5-ounce packages corn muffin mix

2 eggs

½ stick butter, melted

1/3 cup milk

1/3 cup sour cream

1 cup creamed-style corn

Directions In a medium bowl, stir together dry corn muffin mix, eggs, melted butter, milk, sour cream and cream-style corn.

Ingredients (green onion butter)
Stick of butter, softened not melted

1/3 cup green onions, finely minced

½ teaspoon salt

Directions In a small bowl, stir together softened butter, green onions and salt. Transfer to a ramekin, cover and refrigerate.  

Assembly [1] Heat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish, then prepare the following layers: 1/3 of the corn bread batter, 4 tablespoons jerk sauce (or to taste), sauteed vegetables, then top with remaining corn bread batter. [2] Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the top layer of cornbread is a deep golden brown. [3] To serve, cut into squares, plate, then top with a green onion butter. 

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