Monday, June 27, 2011

Cabbage with Sweet Corn & Bacon

 I tend to think of cabbage as a fall and winter food. Most people—if they take the time to think about cabbage at all—probably think the same. With the exception of coleslaw, cabbage most often shows up in hearty winter dishes—soups, stews, warm salads and vegetable braises. I am almost always caught a bit by surprise when beautiful young tender cabbages start showing up at the farmer's market in early summer. Its arrival comes just in time to make that batch of July 4th coleslaw. But summer cabbage doesn't have to be used in slaw. Quickly cooked, garden-fresh cabbage makes a light and delicious summer side dish.


For those with a lingering childhood aversion to cooked cabbage, "delicious" is probably not the exact word that comes to mind when you think of it. Unfortunately this aversion seems to be fairly universal (at least for Americans), so even if you happen to like cooked cabbage, you might have a hard time selling it to your family and friends.

I mentioned in one of my first posts that almost everyone in my Irish Foods for St. Patrick's Day class was pretty surprised at how much they liked the Colcannon potatoes. Folded into mashed potatoes, cooked cabbage was a hit. So perhaps one way to get people to try cooked cabbage is to combine it with another food that they really like. Sweet corn and bacon seem like good candidates. A few years ago I ran across a recipe for Sweet Corn with Green Cabbage & Bacon in Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques. Every time I make this dish I am amazed at how good it is.

Goin's recipe assumes that you will have access to very fresh sweet corn and cabbage. When fresh, both cabbage and corn will cook fairly quickly. The entire dish can be made in a few minutes—all in one pan. Simply render the bacon, sweat the onions in the bacon fat, add the corn to the cooked onions and then add the cabbage a minute or two after the corn. The cabbage will wilt and become tender as the corn is finishing cooking.


It could hardly be easier. As the season wears on, or if I am using grocery store cabbage, I alter the method a bit and cook the cabbage separately. When it is tender, I add it to the finished corn. This way I have complete control over the doneness of both vegetables.


If you don't know how to cook cabbage, I think the best way is found in Darina Allen's book Forgotten Skills of Cooking. She calls it simply "Buttered Cabbage". To serve 6 people you will need a pound of cabbage. Cut the cabbage into quarters and cut out the core. Cut the quarters cross-wise into very thin slices. Put 2 to 3 tablespoons of water—you don't need much, just enough to get the cabbage going—in a wide saucepan with a couple of tablespoons of butter. Bring to a boil over high heat and add the cabbage. Toss and stir constantly until the cabbage wilts and most of the water is evaporated. Reduce the heat, cover and continue to cook until tender—just a few minutes more. Cooked cabbage should still have a bit of texture—it shouldn't be mushy. Season with salt and pepper and, if you like, more butter.

I recently served this sauté of corn and cabbage accompanied by pan-seared pork chops.


In her book, Goin serves it with Salmon. It would probably be pretty good with whatever meat or fish you chose to serve it. And if you really want to make people happy, you could serve it alongside a big mound of mashed potatoes.


Sauté of Corn & Green Cabbage with Bacon

4 to 5 oz. bacon (thick or thinly sliced), cut cross-wise into 1/2-inch pieces
2 T. butter
1 c. thinly sliced spring or sweet summer onions, plus some of the green if using spring onions (reserve the green portion separately)
2 t. roughly chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 c. freshly cut corn (from about 2 ears) plus scrapings
1/2 small green cabbage (about 1 lb.), quartered, cored and thinly sliced cross-wise
2 to 3 T. minced Italian flat-leaf parsley


Render bacon until crisp over medium to medium-low heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate. Add a tablespoon of butter to the pan and increase the heat to medium. When the butter foams, add the onions, thyme and a good pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper. Sweat until the onions are tender and translucent—3 to 5 minutes. Add the corn, along with the green portion of the onions (if using spring onions), and cook until the corn is sizzling, stirring occasionally—about 3 minutes. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter, increase the heat slightly and add the cabbage. Season with salt & pepper. Add a couple of tablespoons of water to the pan and cook the cabbage, tossing and stirring until the cabbage begins to wilt. Continue to cook until the cabbage is just tender. If necessary, cover the pan and lower the heat for a minute or two. The cabbage should only take a few minutes to cook. Add the parsley and taste and correct the seasoning. Add the bacon and fold in, or serve with the bacon sprinkled over the top.  Serves 4 to 6.

(Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin)

4 comments:

Chris Beam said...

I for one love cabbage and this is a combination I had never thought of. It looks wonderful.

Katrina said...

My family loves the warm cabbage salad with ham and goat cheese--I've made it a number of times. My husband even mentioned it a few weeks ago. Bacon and corn sound really good, too. I'll have to spring this one on everybody and see what they think.

ArtsyNina said...

I made this tonight... it was FANTASTIC! So glad I found your site :)

Paige said...

Hi Nina! I'm glad you found my site too :). Thank you so much for letting my know you tried the corn and cabbage (and that you liked it!)