A seemingly uneventful day on the home front, but now that I’m sitting down (for the first time?) I have the chance to congratulate myself on getting a helluva lot done. After a fairly early, fairly rigorous gym trip, I made a quick lunch, then dashed to the bike shop. There, I purchased a rack and pannier(!), which are being installed as we speak*. Talked to the Mom and the Sis, mailed some letters, did some laundry, and then it was on to more glamorous tasks — namely, Cooking with Leftovers.
Thrift was a virtue highly praised in my childhood home. My family’s frugality wasn’t always motivated by necessity, but rather by an innate tendency, shared by many of Eastern European descent, toward scrimping & saving. It makes sense, I guess: my grandparents, like many of their generation, had very little growing up. They valued their possessions, maintaining them, fixing them, tinkering with instead of throwing out. My parents, to a certain extent, adopted some of their parents’ habits, and so it is with me! Not that I’m casting a critical eye; the Recession is still hanging on, long after it should have evaporated & we should all have gotten back to the ueberconsumerism of the 1990s (or not). Besides, I’m all for saving my money for fun stuff rather than shelling out unnecessarily for things like toothpaste, home repairs, and Billz in General. Save when ye can, and reap the benefits, yo.
Back to my story. I had half of a [huge] head of cabbage and a wimpy little onion kicking around my fridge; Hook had a package of less-than-stellar bacon just waiting to be defrosted. Rather than compost my veggies and chuck the average bacon, what did I do? Why, made Braised Red Cabbage With Bacon, of course! It seemed like a personal destiny that just a few days prior, Chow’s recipe of the day was cabbage and bacon. I couldn’t let this opportunity pass me by! That, and I’m momentarily tired of the cabbage and kale salad I’ve been making (in batches) for the past week. Rotkohl, then, was this afternoon’s highest order of business.
Apron on, I lit the Bendel firewood candle, cranked up my new-created Pandora account, and began chopping cabbage and onions. Feist accompanied my greasy creation of bacon lardons; Woodie Guthrie crooned as the bacon fat rendered. The sun streamed in through the tiny sink window. I sang along to “For No One,” hoping Hook’s upstairs neighbors couldn’t hear — you never know!, and added the onions and cabbage to the hot fat. A few tablespoons of mustard and brown sugar later, the cabbage was on to simmer. I cleaned the dishes, wiped my hands on the trim of my apron, and congratulated myself for a second time. On my watch, no veggies — cruciferous or otherwise — shall go to waste! Leftovers aren’t sexy, but some of life’s best things aren’t. You know what is sexy? The heels I’m going to buy with all the money I save eating leftover cabbage. (!).
Here’s the Cabbage and Bacon recipe I used, with several modifications. Instead of six slices of bacon, I used four (no need to be excessive, yo! Four slices render a goodly amount of fat). I had no broth and didn’t want to run to the store, so I used water. Also, I had no cider vinegar and so I subbed in white. As always, I was heavy-handed with the pepper mill, light with the salt shaker, but of course, you can s&p to taste.
Had I any Hefeweizen on hand, I’d raise a solitary toast to this hearty, beautiful dish. Alas, this couch is so comfy that I don’t think even the coldest beer could rouse me from it. Know that, paired with a wheat beer and a spicy sausage, this cabbage is perfection.
1 medium head red cabbage
6 thick slices applewood-smoked bacon or other smoked bacon, cut into lardons (about 1/4-by-1/4-by-3/4-inch pieces)
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1. Slice cabbage in half lengthwise. Use a sharp knife to cut a V-shaped notch around the white core and discard it. Slice both pieces in half again so you have 4 quarters, then thinly slice each piece crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick strips. Set aside.
2. Place bacon in a large Dutch oven or other large, heavy-bottomed pot with a tightfitting lid over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and most of the fat has rendered.
3. Add onion and stir to coat in the bacon fat. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook until the onion softens and the edges begin to brown, about 4 to 5 minutes.
4. Add the reserved cabbage, stir to coat in bacon fat, and cook until the cabbage begins to wilt, about 4 minutes. Stir in the brown sugar and mustard.
5. Deglaze the pan with the cider vinegar, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a spatula. Add the chicken broth and season with a few pinches of salt and more freshly ground pepper. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium low and cover the pan tightly. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is soft and soupy and the bacon is tender, about 45 minutes. If the cabbage begins to look dry, add more broth or water.
This dish can be prepared a day ahead of time.
* I don’t actually know that the rack is being installed at this very moment, but my bike will be in the shop until tomorrow afternoon, so there’s a good chance.