Cabbage is pretty simple, as vegetables go. It's a beautiful, tightly bound ball of green-yellow leaves with a distinct pungent scent and taste. But when chopped up and left to melt and brown in salty, savory bacon fat, cabbage transforms into a pot of soft, mellow vegetable magic that soothes the soul.
Southern cooks know this magic well. Here's how to bring all of that cabbage magic into your own kitchen.
The Comfort of Cabbage
This recipe is rooted in the Southern tradition of cooking fresh cabbage in bacon fat for an easy side dish that delivers pure, vegetable comfort. It starts with cooking lardons, otherwise known as thick-cut bacon bits, until they're crispy. They get set aside and wedges of cabbage go into the pan.
Rather than chopping the cabbage into pieces, I like to keep the cabbage attached to the core, making for soft, tender hunks of cabbage to spoon onto each plate. This creates soft cabbage "fans" on the plate once they are cooked down and ready to eat. The cabbage gets braised in broth until tender, with a good glug of apple cider vinegar to finish.
This recipe is a beautiful blend of Southern cooking and comfort techniques, but it's straightforward enough to be the dish you eat any day of the week.
One-Pot Braised Cabbage with Bacon
Serves 4 to 6
thick-cut slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick pieces
Olive oil, if needed
garlic, finely chopped
medium green cabbage (about 2 pounds), cut through the core into 1/4-inch-thick wedges
low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons
1 1/2 tablespoons
apple cider vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat a 5-quart or larger Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crispy and most of the fat is rendered, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate. Take the pot off the heat and let cool a few minutes. If you have less than 3 tablespoons of grease in the pot, add olive oil to make up the difference.
Place the Dutch oven back over medium-high heat; add the garlic and stir. Place the cabbage wedges cut-side down in the pot (they will not sit in one layer). Cook undisturbed until the cabbage pieces on the bottom begin to slightly brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, bring up the cabbage sitting on the bottom to rotate the pieces on the top to the bottom of the pot. Continue cooking until the cabbage slightly wilts and more pieces brown on the edges, 7 to 8 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium. Add the broth, bay leaf, and salt. Simmer, stirring every few minutes, until the cabbage is tender and all the liquid is evaporated, 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in the vinegar. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Scatter the crispy bacon on top and serve immediately.
Bacon substitute: Black pepper pastrami can be substituted for the bacon.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.