This flavorful, quick-cooking dish will turn cabbage haters into lovers
Cabbage doesn’t get much respect, we know. But that’s because so many people abuse it with overcooking.
Fortunately, this dish cooks quickly. So its flavors are allowed to dance (and there’s no cabbagey smell in the kitchen). Plus, we add extra zest with bacon and sweet potatoes. Enough flavor, in fact, to entice the most determined cabbage hater in your household.
So the cabbage might be smothered. But your appetite won’t be.
Recipe: Smothered Cabbage with Bacon and Sweet Potatoes
Why “smothered”? Well, in this case, it means that the cabbage is covered as it cooks, allowing it to soften in its own moisture. One classic recipe for this dish developed in Venice, where it is known as sofegao (which means – you guessed it – smothered).
This dish typically is served as a side. But it’s hearty enough for a main course (we’d serve some cornbread with it if we were going that route).
We’re using ordinary green cabbage in this dish, but Savoy or red cabbage would also work well. We like our cabbage just barely on the crisp side, so we cook it minimally. But when it’s cooked for an hour or two at a low temperature (to minimize the odor problem), it becomes very tender, with an almost melting texture. So if you prefer tenderness in your cabbage, cook it longer than we suggest.
Prep time for this dish is 10 to 15 minutes. Cooking time adds half an hour (or less).
This recipe yields about 6 side-dish servings or 3 main-course servings.
- ~8 ounces bacon, cut into pieces of about ½ inch
- 1 medium onion, cut into thin slices or ½-inch dice (we like to use red onion in this dish, but any type of onion works)
- 1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into ½-inch dice
- salt to taste (½ to ¾ teaspoon kosher salt for us; see Notes)
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or more to taste)
- ½ head cabbage, cored and shredded (about 1 pound)
- ~1 cooked sweet potato, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice (see Notes)
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- ½ cup chicken stock (can substitute water)
- Add the bacon to a frying pan (use one that’s large and fairly deep, or substitute a Dutch oven). Place the pan on medium stovetop heat, then sauté the bacon, stirring occasionally, until it’s browned (about 5 minutes). Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain it on a plate lined with a paper towel.
- Add the onion and red bell pepper to the hot bacon grease in the frying pan. Sauté until the onion is becoming translucent (5 to 8 minutes). Add the salt, red pepper flakes, and thyme, then stir to combine.
- Add the cabbage, then sauté for about 2 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes, cider vinegar, and chicken stock. Stir to combine. Cover the pan and turn the heat to medium low. Cook for 10 minutes.
- Uncover the pan, turn the heat up to medium, and add the cooked bacon (from Step 1). Stir to combine, then cook until the cabbage is just tender (another minute or two). Taste, adjust the seasoning if necessary, and serve.
- Exact quantities are not critical in this recipe. And feel free to substitute at will – this dish is perfect for that. You may see versions of this dish that use only onion and cabbage, for example. Sweet potatoes aren’t a common addition, but white potatoes are. You may want to add some canned tomatoes. Or frozen peas. Or add some sliced apples when you brown the onion. And maybe a garlic clove or two. The variations are endless.
- We’ve chopped the cabbage roughly for this dish, but you could shred it finely if you prefer.
- We use leftover cooked sweet potatoes in this dish. If you don’t have leftovers on hand, just peel a sweet potato, cut it into dice, and microwave it in a covered dish with a tablespoon or two of water for 4 to 5 minutes.
- Many recipes use diced ham or sliced sausage in place of bacon. You could also use a combo of bacon and sausage. If you’re going the sausage route, andouille or kielbasa would be our choices.
- Speaking of andouille sausage: It’s of course very popular in Louisiana, where versions of this dish often add some Cajun/Creole seasoning for extra flavor. Plus hot sauce.
- We use kosher salt in cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the crystals are larger and more irregular, so they pack a measure less tightly). If using table salt, start with about half the amount we suggest. But always salt to your taste, not ours.
“Nice,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Of all the cabbage dishes we’ve been eating lately, this is one of the best.”
“Cabbage stores well, which is a real plus in these COVID times,” I said. “When we’re only getting our groceries delivered once a week.”
“Not the usual for foodies like us,” said Mrs K R. “Who knew we’d become such cabbage heads?”
“Yeah, that’s a change I never slaw coming,” I said.
“You slaw-dered that pun,” said Mrs K R. “Hope you don’t try any attacks on the sweet potatoes.”
What can I say? I yam what I yam.
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