Monday, November 14, 2011

Roasted Cabbage

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.

Roasted Cabbage
Serves: some number of people
Total time: 1 hour

Green or white cabbage
Olive oil

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.


  1. Must try this! Your roasted sprouts recipe was what got me to try them again. Before they seemed like sulfurous little brains. Now we love them -- either your maple syrup/fish sauce recipe or just with olive oil and salt.

    Hey, are there going to be any more ChopChop posts soon?


  2. This looks so good! But I love cabbage. Have you tried cabbage nests?

  3. Weird, I have been doing this for the past few weeks as an experiment because we have been getting oodles of cabbage in our CSA, and I thought that the brussels sprouts idea of roasting it might translate well, and it did! The first time I threw in a head of cauliflower that was begging to be turned into something yummy, so I roasted them together, and it was fantastic. I have to say though, (obligatory clearing of the throat...aHEM...)that even though we eat quite a lot of cabbage, it *never* fails to cause everybody to have gas. I felt *so* bad for my 9 month old son after I ate an entire head of roasted cabbage for lunch. He was up all night farting from my cruciferous breast milk. Any hints on how to reduce gassiness from cabbage? I eat Bubbies kraut everyday,and cabbage probably twice a week, you think I wouldn't have this problem! Sorry to be gross, given your wonderful recipe. This is the only thing keeping from eating even more cabbage...

  4. ladidah3:54 PM

    i think of a quote from another post often: "roasting giveth where steaming taketh away". for some reason, anything in ye olde english sticks with me. ;)

    but, yeah, we had a bad experience with cabbage for the reasons stated in the above comment and have never gone back. maybe it was the amount. we'll try one slice and see what happens.

  5. Sharon5:36 PM

    What this recipe needs is bacon! Seriously, maybe not a full hour in the oven bacon, but halfway through, some chopped bacon tossed in the pan with the cabbage. Sigh.
    I also do something like this with cauliflower - chop it up, toss it in a roasting pan with a sliced onion and some chopped bacon and olive oil. Ta da - cruciferous ugly duckling transformed!

  6. I have done this before with cabbage and with Brussels sprouts--so delicious! But, I like cabbage and Brussels sprouts no matter how they're cooked. Another great way to cook cabbage is to cook a half pound of bacon, set the bacon aside, then fry sliced up cabbage in the bacon grease. Crumble the bacon up into the cabbage. It's so unhealthily delicious!

  7. We are cabbage lovers too. I've never thought to roast it! That last pic looks so scrumptious.

  8. I don't know why I never thought to roast cabbage. I love it cooked (or uncooked) in so many other ways!

  9. Please please please Catherine - start a meal delivery service. I am not a cook, I read because you are brilliant. However I would love to try everything you post about if only someone would do it for me....

  10. I have 2 boys that fight over cabbage. Makes me feel like a successful mother :-). Ive roasted it in wedges, tonight im going to slice it, like you!

  11. Anonymous9:10 AM

    Well, you've convinced me. Everything else tastes great roasted. Why not cabbage? Great idea.

  12. This looks so tempting and delicious. (I actually just finished eating a plate full of roasted Brussels sprouts before I read this.)

  13. Your pictures are gorgeous!

    Personally, I love all vegetables roasted. I'm guessing you've tried cauliflower, right? Can't remember if you've posted it here or not. But it is wonderful. It gets all caramelized and buttery and is perfect with some curry powder or garam masala!

  14. You're so elegant here with the wedges! I use a bag of pre-cut slaw, toss it with some oil, and let it caramelize. I thought I was the only one in the world who liked it this way. Glad to see I'm wrong!

  15. swimmermom10:21 AM

    Made this last night and it turned out great. At the halftime flip I drizzled it with a dressing made of Dijon mustard, lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil (flavor combo from a yummy Bon Appetit recipe for roasted cauliflower). I think it will take me another try or two to figure out how to cut the cabbage so the pieces stay together better. Thanks for the inspiration!