Red Cabbage Plus A Pound of Bacon ... You Do the Math 03.19.2011

I had no idea what to do with the head of red cabbage sitting on our kitchen counter, but I knew bacon had to be involved.  I've never cooked with red cabbage, and don't eat it often.  But the red cabbage in my hands was gorgeous and I was determined to make magic.

We were having dinner at our friend Tom's, who was making chicken pot pie and a salad.  Good wine would also be involved.  Like Eric, Tom is an exceptional cook, and if I'm making something that he's going to eat, it's a little pressure-inducing.  Having my cooking rejected by Eric or Tom means I'm going to spend at least 20 minutes sulking, and possibly longer in a spiral of cooking shame, over-analyzing their comments, or lack of comments.  

I Googled "red cabbage and bacon" and one of the first recipes to pop up was Braised Red Cabbage with Bacon.  It looked simple and I had all the ingredients, although I did not use all of them, nor did I follow each step.

Before I go into the shocking details of this recipe, I want to emphasize that the aromas emitted during the entire process were worth the calories, fat, and clogged arteries.  Now, on to the recipe.  Here are the ingredients you will need:

             1 medium head red cabbage (the one I used was on the smallish side)
6 thick slices applewood-smoked bacon or other smoked bacon, cut into lardons (about 1/4-by-1/4-by-3/4-inch pieces) (I used a pound)
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar (I ended up using a bit more to cut the bitterness)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (I used heaping tablespoons)
1/3 cup cider vinegar (Did not use at all)
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1.  First, cut out the white core of the cabbage; cube the cabbage and cut 1/4-inch-thick slices, and set aside.

2.  Then chop the raw bacon into small pieces and throw them into large pan on the stove, stirring frequently until all the pieces are cooked.

3.  Using a slotted spatula -- and leaving the bacon fat in the pan -- scoop out the cooked bacon pieces and place them in a steel colander to drain.  Note that this is the only healthy move in this recipe.

4.  Keep the bacon fat on stove and throw in the chopped onions.  The smell of cooking bacon was amazing, but the smell of onions cooking in bacon fat -- wow.  Sprinkle the onions with salt and fresh black pepper. Continue to cook until the onions are brown at the edges.

5.  Next -- and this is the shocking part -- add the cabbage into the bacon fat and coat.  You may have coated this much bacon fat around something, but I have not.  I knew it was wrong to coat anything -- even bacon -- in bacon fat, but it was one of the most beautiful things I've ever done in the kitchen.  Absolutely gorgeous!  

6.  Cook until the cabbage begins to wilt, and then stir in brown sugar and mustard.  It was at this point that I had a taste and decided more brown sugar was needed.  I used light brown sugar because we were out of dark.  By the way, I love brown sugar -- dark and light.  Is it be because I'm Indian?  Maybe.  I may have to write an essay about the beauty and versatility of brown sugar.

7.  It is at this point that I stopped following the recipe, primarily because I was getting late, but also because the word “deglaze” makes me anxious.  The next step is to deglaze the pan with cider vinegar, and scrape up browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Then, add the chicken broth and simmer for 45 minutes "until the cabbage is soft and soupy and bacon is tender".  Wow.  I skipped a huge step.  

Let be known, however, that the cabbage in bacon turned out beautifully.  It was far from soupy, and absolutely delicious.  It was difficult to resist a second helping.  When you've personally coated something in bacon fat, you know when to stop.

I also recommend having this with chicken pot pie.  The two tastes were harmonious and satisfying.  We drank Byron 2008 Chardonnay, which I did not like right away, but as the meal went on, it grew on me.  It was not a typical Chardonnay taste and had a bit of dryness to it.  I would buy it again.

If you try this recipe to the letter, write and let me know what you think.



  1. What - you used store-bought bacon?!?! I nominate you to get on the stick with the Charcutapalooza post-haste!

  2. @Brioboy: I know. It's shocking. Thanks for the link -- love the year of meat!