Remember how nobody used to like Brussels sprouts? We all shuddered to think of them from childhood, the way they’d been boiled to a noxious mush that filled the house with the smell of old shoes that someone had filled with egg salad. “Ugh!” everybody said. “Brussels sprouts! Why would anybody?” And then I had the brilliant idea to roast them. Okay, so did, like, a bazillion other people. But remember? How it turned out that everybody loved Brussels sprouts after all? We just hadn’t realized that they could be sweet and caramelized, tender but still green-tasting and a bit crunchy, salty and a little greasy and totally addictive. And now we know. Now they’re on every hip bar menu and every Thanksgiving table, and everybody’s happy.
I want to make the same case for cabbage, and for roasting it. But first, to be clear, I love cabbage every which way, and we eat tons of it. I buy these enormous heads, locally grown and the size of basket balls and 99 cents apiece, and then we saw away at them for weeks. I steam cabbage and serve it with lots of melting butter and salt and a sprinkle of cider vinegar; I sliver it and make various coleslaws stirred up with sweet-and-sour vinaigrette or spicy lime-scented mayonnaise; I fry it with onions and apples, then I add a big splash of cider and a hefty pinch of sugar and let it finish cooking; I braise it in the oven, with chicken broth and lots of olive oil, according to Molly Stevens’ justly famous recipe; I sliver it and add it to every kind of soup and stew, and (this does not overjoy the children) to everybody’s quesadillas and tacos; I make fresh-pickled cabbage with vinegar and, one time, I made true fermented sauerkraut that bubbled furiously in its jar and stank to high heaven and tasted fantastic, flavored delicately with caraway and juniper.
But roasting it is new to me and, as with Brussels sprouts, it is a revelation—which is not that surprising, given that cabbage is pretty much just a big, mild Brussels sprout. You have to be patient, though: what you want is to cook it for a long time so that it gets deeply browned and sweet and that perfect kind of toothsome-but-tender, and this takes close to an hour. But that makes it the perfect side for something else that’s hanging out in a hot oven for an hour or two: a roasting chicken, say, or baked potatoes, or a brisket. Try it, please, and report back.
Serves: some number of people
Total time: 1 hour
Green or white cabbage
Heat the oven to 425 and oil a rimmed baking sheet with plenty of olive oil.
Cut the cabbage across in big, thick (about ¾-inch) slices. My cabbage was so big that I used one single slice out of the middle of it, and this fed all four of us well! Crazy. But you will likely need a few slices. Now cut these in half, or in quarters, so that the pieces are manageable but stay intact. (Alternately, you could cut it into wedges, but I find this trickier, since they don’t cook very evenly.)
Put the cabbage in the pan and drizzle it generously with olive oil (another few tablespoonfuls) and use your fingers or a brush to get it evenly distributed over the vegetable. Sprinkle the pieces generously with salt, then pop the pan in the oven.
After about twenty minutes, check the cabbage by lifting up a piece of it and seeing if the bottom is brown (this might take more like half an hour). If and when it is, then take the pan out of the oven and carefully flip the pieces, which will fall apart a little, which is fine. Roast the cabbage until the second underside (hunh?) is brown, another twenty minutes or half an hour or so. Taste a piece to make sure it’s tender and salted enough, and serve.
For a variation, add a very small splash of balsamic vinegar about 10 minutes before the cabbage is done roasting.
|There's a penny here for scale--but you can't even see it! Okay, there's not. But this was a big-ass cabbage.|
|"I do like cabbage. Or something. Maybe I just like to stick my paw on the oily pan and then walk around the kitchen."|
|This would be a lovely Thanksgiving side dish. In fact, if you're planning to come to my house for that holiday, this might not be the last you see of it.|