Many holidays in Cajun and Creole country are steeped in strong traditions and a bit of superstition. Ringing in the New Year in South Louisiana is certainly one of those and it should be no surprise that food is at the center. Traditional fare is served in hopes of stacking the deck for good fortune as the old year ends and the New Year dawns. What could be more important than one’s health and wealth? So in South Louisiana, the New Year starts by serving greens of some sort, which represents money, and pork, which represents prosperity. Sweet Daddy D’s simple recipe for Smothered Cabbage checks all the boxes. All you have to do is whip up a big batch, sit back and yell…SHOW ME THE MONEY!!
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Here’s what you need
- A large head of green cabbage
- 1 large or a couple of medium yellow onions
- About 5 cloves garlic
- About 3 or 4 thick slices of smoked bacon
- 2 bone-in pork chops (with some fat on them)
- Herb and Spice Blend
- Kosher salt
- creole seasoning (plus some to season the pork chops)
- fresh ground black pepper
- dry thyme
- bay leaves
- ¼ to ½ cup chicken stock
The entire recipe can be cooked in a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottom pot with a good lid. I use an 8 ½-quart Calphalon Dutch oven like this one.
Here’s what you do
First…you have a beer. This recipe is simple and with a little preparation (mise en place) doesn’t take much time to throw together. Pop the cap off your favorite beer, turn on some music and read the recipe from top to bottom. Make sure you have all the ingredients, know how to prep them and know what you are going to do with them.
Mise en place
Sprinkle the pork chops with creole seasoning and set aside along with the bacon, which is chopped into approximately 1-inch pieces. To prepare the cabbage, remove the loose outer leaves and slice the head in half through the stem-end. Cut out the hard stem and discard.
Slice each half in half again, then slice each half across in 4 to 6 pieces. Slice onion into thick rings and then cut the rings in half and rough-chop the garlic.
Measure the Herb and Spice Blend plus the sugar into a small prep bowl and measure out about ½ cup of chicken stock.
Sear the pork
Starting in a cold Dutch oven over medium-high heat, fry the bacon until just crispy and the fat has been rendered. Alternately, if you are using bacon grease you have saved, melt it in the Dutch oven. Sear the pork chops on both sides in the bacon grease.
When browned, remove the pork chops and bacon and set aside. There should be some nice, flavorful fond on the bottom of the Dutch oven. We will use that!
Saute the Onions and Garlic
Add the sliced onions to the bacon grease and sauté until starting to soften and brown on the edges, which will take about 5 to 8 minutes. Next, add the garlic and stir for about 2 minutes until aromatic.
Use about ¼ cup of the chicken stock to deglaze the Dutch oven. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up all the bits of fond in the pan and mix thoroughly with the onions and garlic. This is a very important step that adds tremendous color and flavor to the final dish.
Add the cabbage
Next, add the chopped cabbage to the onions in batches, a handful at a time. Not only does the raw cabbage take up a lot of room in the pan, but you also want to make sure all of the pieces are mixed thoroughly with the onions.
Stir well to completely mix the onions and cabbage together and allow it to cook down slightly before you add more cabbage. It may take about 10 minutes to get all the cabbage in the pan. Next mix in the Herb and Spice Blend, the sugar and the bay leaves.
Add back the pork and smother
The pork chops and bacon go back in the pot with the cabbage. Make sure to include any juice which has accumulated while the pork rested.
Lower the heat to medium and cover the pot. Check in about 10 minutes and stir thoroughly. The cabbage will give off some liquid which helps smother the cabbage. Continue to simmer for another 10 minutes, then remove the cover, stir well and increase the heat to medium-high and simmer uncovered for about 10 to 15 minutes until cabbage is completely cooked down and some browning has occurred.
Remove the Dutch oven from the heat and allow it to cool slightly. Pull the pork meat off the bones, shred or break into smaller pieces and return it to the cabbage. Remove the bay leaves and discard them. Taste the cabbage for seasonings and add more salt and pepper as needed. It is now ready to serve alongside ham or pork and can be served over steamed rice if desired.
Hints and Tips
- Heads of cabbage vary in size. I used a large head, approximately 5 pounds. If the heads available in the store are small, use a couple. The exact size is not that important.
- Deglazing the pan with the chicken stock after sauteeing the onions is extremely important for adding color and flavor to the finished dish. We are building flavor starting at the point of frying the bacon. When we sear the seasoned pork chops and saute the onions, small bits of food adhere to the bottom of the pan and cook. These dark hardened pieces are call fond. Using the cooler chicken stock (or substitute wine, water or other types of stock, like veal or vegetable) will loosen the fond from the bottom so you can easily scrape them up and mix them with the vegetables. The water evaporates out but the flavor and color are now incorporated into the dish.
- If pork chops are not available you can substitute other cuts of pork like country-style ribs or pork steaks. It’s best to use something with a bone and a little fat if possible because that seems to deepen the flavor. Smoked ham hocks, smoked ham shanks, and smoked sausage or andouille sausage also make great substitutes.
- This can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator until you need it. To reheat, return the cabbage to the Dutch oven and simmer until heated through.
- Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator or can be kept in the freezer for about 10 months. It is important to wrap in plastic wrap or aluminum foil then store in airtight containers to maintain the quality of the finished dish.
Here are some other great side dish recipes from Sweet Daddy D:
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Yeah You Right!
Here's What You Need
- 3 slices smoked bacon Substitute 3 to 4 tablespoons bacon grease
- 2 pork chops bone-in with some fat
- 1 head green cabbage chopped
- 1 large yellow onion sliced
- 5 cloves garlic rough chop
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ¼ cup Chicken Stock
Herb and Spice Blend
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon dry thyme
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon creole seasoning plus some for the pork chops
- 2 bay leaves
Here's What You Do
- Sprinkle the pork chops with kosher salt and pepper and creole seasoning and set aside; chop bacon into 1-inch pieces.
- Remove the outer leaves and cut out the cabbage in half and remove the hard stem. Slice cabbage in half again then slice each half across in 4 to 6 pieces.
- Slice onion into thick rings and then cut the rings in half; rough chop the garlic
- Measure out all other ingredients
To cook the cabbage
- Fry the bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. (Or melt bacon grease)
- Brown the pork chops on both sides in the bacon grease. When browned, remove the pork chops and bacon from the pan and set aside.
- Add the onions and sauté until starting to soften and brown on the edges, about 5 to 8 minutes.
- Add the garlic and stir until aromatic, about 2 minutes.
- Deglaze the pan with the chicken stock to lift all the fond off the bottom and mix well into the onions. This is an important step that adds a lot of flavor and color to the process.
- Add in the cabbage a handful at a time. Stir well and allow it to cook down a little before you add more. It may take about 10 minutes to cook down to get all the cabbage in the dutch oven.
- Add the herbs and spices, sugar and the bay leaves and stir well.
- Add back the pork chops and bacon. Lower the heat to medium-low and cover the pot. Check in about 10 minutes and stir. The cabbage should be giving off liquid, but if not, add a little chicken stock (but, only if needed).
- Cover the pot and simmer another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the cover, increase the heat and continue to simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to allow some browning and to cook-off some of the excess liquid.
- Remove the Dutch oven from the heat and allow the cabbage to cool somewhat. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Pull the pork chop meat off the bones, shred or break into smaller pieces and return to the pot. Remove the bay leaves, mix well and serve.