I have cooked cabbage in many different ways. I've chopped, shredded, steamed, boiled, and stir-fried it, but until relatively recently, I had never roasted it. But once I tried I couldn't believe I waited so long!
Roasted cabbage wedges are one of the easiest, most delicious ways to eat a hunk of vegetables for dinner, and the bacon just helps it along.
The first time I tried this I had a big head of cabbage that had been languishing in my kitchen for weeks, waiting to be used in soup or dumplings. The cabbage was turning progressively more dry and crunchy so I decided it was time to use it up. I wanted something quick and easy, and I had been craving roasted Brussels sprouts, so I wondered if there was a way to treat the cabbage as one giant sprout and roast it in the oven.
Sara Kate roasted baby cabbages whole with honey and vinegar last year, but I had never tried to roast an entire full-grown head of cabbage. Would it even work? Or taste good?
I removed the dry and crunchy outer leaves, sliced cabbage into eight chunky wedges, and added some bacon that was nearing its own use-by date. I laid the wedges down in a roasting pan, seasoned generously, and slid into a very hot oven.
I roasted for about 30 minutes total, flipping the wedges over halfway through. It looked like a hot mess, but a very promising one.
The final result?
Wow! The high-heat roasting gets rid of any cabbage funk and makes the cabbage sweet and flavorful — and all that bacon grease certainly adds to the irresistible aroma. The bacon pieces were crispy and chewy, and the bacon fat seeped all through the folds of the cabbage, making it tender and juicy in the middle and crispy and browned on the outside.
The combination of tastes and textures was just fantastic. The outer leaves and edges of the cabbage were browned and crispy — I let some blacken at the tips, and they gave that burnt-marshmallow smokiness to each bite. The insides of the leaves, though, were silky and plump with concentrated juices, and shiny from the olive oil and bacon.
I served the cabbage then, and have done so many times since, in wedges, topped with the crumbled bacon, on dishes of pasta. The cabbage was crunchy, chewy, soft, and juicy. The flavors of salt, olive oil, pepper and bacon married perfectly. You have to go at this cabbage with knife and fork, which for me just adds to the sense that I'm eating a full and satisfying dish. I had a leftover wedge for lunch — no pasta — and felt fully satisfied. It's delicious, and such a mix of textures and tastes.
Have you ever roasted cabbage? If you do, how do you like to make it? I basically described the recipe above, but here it is in proper format in case you want to have it in a more organized flow.
Roasted Cabbage with Bacon
Serves 4 to 6
1 head green or Savoy cabbage, outer leaves removed
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 slices thick bacon, 6 to 8 ounces
Heat the oven to 450°F. Cut the cabbage into quarters and slice the bottom of each quarter at an angle to partially remove the stem core. Cut each quarter in half again so you have eight wedges. Lay these down on a large roasting pan or baking sheet and drizzle very lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
Cut each slice of bacon into small strips and lay on top of the cabbage.
Roast for 30 minutes, flipping the cabbage wedges once halfway through. If the edges aren't browned enough for your taste after 30 minutes, put them back in for five-minute increments until they are.
Serve immediately; the wedges cool down fast.
Roasting Rack: Some cooks prefer to roast the cabbage on a rack, which helps the edges crisp up and brown more. But when you roast it flat in a pan more of the bacon and its drippings stay with the cabbage, which I prefer.
Types of Cabbage: You can use any sort of cabbage with this recipe. I've never used red cabbage but I am sure it would work beautifully. I also like roasting Savoy cabbage; it tends to give you smaller, more manageable wedges.
(Image credits: Faith Durand)