Joy's Amazing Cabbage Casserole . . . Really

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Cabbages tend to languish in my fridge. I bring them home from the winter's market sure that I will cook them right up and eat local. Instead I dump them in the crisper where they slowly turn spotty.

Or, trying to waste not, I make cabbage and noodles, also called haluska. Cabbage and noodles were a childhood favorite at Pennsylvania Dutch summer festivals, but even through all that nostalgia they are frustratingly bland.

Here's a different take on cabbage. I found this recipe for sauteed cabbage, a sort of casserole almost, in the new Joy of Cooking last weekend. (I know. Two scary words, "cabbage" and "casserole", in the same sentence. Keep reading, this is good stuff.) I wanted to highlight the recipe here since it is just the kind of old-fashioned, every day recipe that's easy to ignore in the huge Joy of Cooking.Enjoy the rich luxury of this side dish brought to us by lowly cabbage. For the details of this recipe, please check out the Vegetables chapter of the Joy of Cooking, but here's the jist:
Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cook four slices of bacon over medium heat, cooking slowly to get as much fat out of the bacon as possible, while leaving the bacon very crispy but not burned. As the bacon cooks, shred a cabbage. I do this quickly using the shredding blade of the food processor. I also shred two onions after the cabbage is done.

Pull the bacon from the pan and cook the cabbage and onion in the fat. Add sweet paprika for some rich color and salt to taste. Cook until the cabbage has started to shrink down and soften, but still has a bit of crunch left.

Put the cabbage and onion in a baking dish. Then, top it with a cup of sour cream, as the Joy of Cooking suggests. Plain yogurt will also work. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the sour cream begins to brown and lose some of its moisture. Crumble the bacon and sprinkle it on top.

Beautiful oven-to-table dishes help me to serve baked sides with more confidence. I find that with these nesting bakers from Michael Chiarello's NapaStyle ($128, set of three), I am more likely to think about making roasted vegetables, shepherd's pie, and casseroles. Before I had this set of bakers, I would have plopped something like this into a practical but not pretty Pyrex bowl. Since the NapaStyle bakers are flat-bottomed, casseroles and squash purees cook evenly and get a perfect crust.

You'll see that baked sour cream topping transforms cabbage into something custardy, almost like a quiche. Without my egg noodles getting in the way, as they did in haluska, the cabbages nutty flavor leads, and there's no brown butter in this recipe to steal the cabbage's credit.

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