Smothered cabbage is a common New Orleans side dish. We were all force-fed some version of it when we were little. And while most of my friends gagged at the mere thought of it, I was one of those weird kids who loved it. Cabbage, especially when pan-fried by my mom or cooked down with pickle meat by my great-grandmother, ranked high on my list of favorite veggies. So in honor of my childhood and with ritualistic promises of health and wealth, I’m ushering in 2011 with an unusual twist on Grandma Kirn’s homey, belly-warming meal. It’s not fancy or pretty, but it is tasty and relatively good for you. While my recipe is somewhat of a culture clash–Irish veggie meets Italian sausage meets Greek cheese–it’s still familiar enough to transport me back to my great-grandmother’s kitchen. Powerful stuff.
“Smothered,” in my own words, means to cook the heck out of something. That’s exactly what you’ll need to do to the cabbage in this recipe. You’ll want to cook it until it’s almost wilted beyond recognition. It’s at that point, and not a minute sooner, that the cabbage will have absorbed all of the flavorful goodness from the bacon fat, sausage and seasoning vegetables.
I hope your New Year is full of happiness, health and good fortune!
Smothered Cabbage with Italian Sausage and Feta Recipe
1 large head of cabbage
1 tablespoon bacon fat
1 pound Italian turkey sausage, removed from casing
1 large onion, halved and sliced thin
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut cabbage into quarters; discard core and large exterior leaves. Thinly slice each quarter. Set aside. Melt bacon fat in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add Italian sausage; break up the links with the side of a spoon. Cook until brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Add onions and garlic; sauté until tender, 3-5 minutes. Add cabbage, oregano and thyme; stir to combine. Cover; cook for 45 minutes, stirring frequently, until smothered. Remove from heat; toss in feta cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serves 6-8.