Basics: Fried cabbage

In an earlier post, I mentioned the steam-frying cooking method, which I use a lot.

Cabbage is an introduced vegetable in North America, and I was kind of surprised to find out just how early it got enthusiastically adopted in some areas. As I recall reading, by 1700 Cherokee gardens were full of cabbage. With the cooler summers, Southern Appalachia’s climate is very good for growing brassicas (though still not as year-round as in the British Isles!), and you find a lot of them. They yield well, and are versatile vegetables.

Over the weekend, I got an urge for a big pan of fried cabbage, and thought I’d post about that in more detail–and with plenty of bad photos. 🙂

A similar recipe variation: Cherokee Cabbage from Oconaluftee Village.

Usually, I prefer just plain cabbage for this kind of dish, but there were some lovely savoy cabbages I couldn’t pass up.

A head of cabbage sitting on a cutting board

A particularly nice-looking head of cabbage

These were not only very fresh-looking and feeling, they were densely packed.

A cabbage, cut in half

Cut in half

Since I don’t like the texture of savoy cabbage in salads, I decided to go ahead and cook the whole head.

First I put a couple of tablespoons of butter in a deep skillet with a lid. (If you want less fat, you can use anything down to a teaspoon, since it’s more for flavor and mouthfeel than anything else.) Then, I chopped up the cabbage into pieces about an inch (2.5cm) square. You can shred it more finely, but chunky works better with the thin savoy leaves, IMO. Then I chopped an onion, and shredded a couple of carrots with my handy mandoline. Usually, I don’t use carrot in there, but it adds a nice touch. Besides, I forgot we’d already bought a new bag of carrots, and bought another one; you’ll be seeing carrots used a lot here for a while. 🙂

A mandoline slicer over a glass bowl, with two carrots beside it

You could use a grater instead, or chop them by hand.

This all went into the pan with the butter, over medium heat.

A pan full to the brim with cabbage, onion, and carrot

Too full to stir yet!

Once I heard sizzling, I poured in about half a cup of water. Normally, I would stir the vegetables around to get them well-coated with the fat, but the pan was just too full. I just put the lid on it, and waited for it to wilt down some.

The same pan of cabbage, reduced by about 25% after a few minutes' cooking

A few minutes later, I dared to *carefully* stir/toss it.

After it had wilted enough that I could stir it, I put the lid back on and let it steam, stirring it occasionally and adding a little more water as needed. You don’t want much liquid–just enough to cover the bottom of the pan, generate steam, and keep the vegetables from frying in the fat yet.

Once most of the vegetables were getting translucent, I added about a teaspoon of salt and a few twists of mixed pepper.  At this stage, stirring in the the salt will give you a release of juices, when the pan is probably needing extra moisture. Remember: this cooking method will really  bring out the flavor of any seasonings you add, and it’s easy to get way too much pepper! Sometimes I like to add crushed red pepper flakes instead of, or along with, the other pepper.

Mostly translucent cabbage

Ready for the seasonings.

With different seasonings, you can make an assortment of Asian- and Mediterranean-style vegetable dishes with the same basic cooking method. I do that more than occasionally, for variation.

Cover the pan back up and let it steam some more. If there is excess liquid in the bottom of the pan, take the lid off a few minutes before you think it will be done, and let it steam off. Watch it carefully, so it doesn’t start sticking too much. Some people like to let it brown a bit, but I usually don’t.

All in all, this took about 25 minutes to cook. You can go for any level of doneness, from tender-crisp to falling apart. I usually like it somewhere in the middle.

Finished pan of cabbage

It's done!

This batch picked up quite a bit of yellow from the carrot.



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