I love St. Patrick's Day. I know it's terribly unfashionable to admit so, but I love it all: I love the wearing of the green, I love the dogs in costume, I love the KISS ME I'M IRISH buttons. Give me a pair of glittered, bobbly shamrocks affixed to a headband and I'm one bonny Irish lass. The green beer? Hell yes. The whiskey at 6 am? Fer sure. The bagpipes and the parades and the handsy fellers named Sully? Check, check, and checkmate!
I even love the little piles of vomit. (I would, wouldn't I?)
I'm secure enough with myself to admit that St. Patrick's Day, and its attendant rituals, appeal to the Obvious Girl in me. The same can be said of my patronage of Dorrian's and my genuine love of Jumbotron proposals. It's actually comforting to be reminded of how utterly normal I am. Sometimes my job makes me feel real, real weird.
Last Tuesday, I set about preparing a thematic St. Patrick's Day dinner of cabbage, potatoes and pork chops. The latter may not be traditional Irish fare, per se, but, as I explained more than once to my husband—who had not actually asked for an explanation—the pork chops made sense in my mind because they represent my mother's Irish boil-and-broil approach to putting weeknight dinners on the table.
Another thing that made sense in my mind? Serving St. Patrick's Day dinner on March 11, apparently. In fairness, and also in the spirit of telling you things about which I should be embarrassed but am obviously not, I didn't think I was serving St. Patrick's Day dinner a week early. I just thought it was St. Patrick's Day. Time is a concept with which I've been known to struggle.
I think it's also fair to say this: My husband let me go for actual literal days thinking that last Tuesday was St. Patrick's Day. Like, I was carrying on all weekend about this thematic dinner I was planning and he never said a word. I always wondered what sort of person would blindly follow the GPS lady as she directed the car into a lake. Now I know.
There was, however, a pot of gold at the end of my cabbage-y rainbow: I got to tell my editor the story about how I can't use a calendar and then pitch him on publishing my recipe for cabbage. He agreed to pay me to do so. LUCK OF THE MOTHERFUCKING IRISH!
My recipe for cabbage has a few things going for it. The first is that it is dumb easy. It's also absurdly good; if cabbage is to have its day in the sun in the way that its dwarf-like cousin the Brussels sprout has, I might suggest that this preparation will be the thing that convinces diners cabbage can be more than a damp, stinking pile of rope-like vegetation.
The thing that finally freed Brussels sprouts from the tyranny of a million wrinkled noses turned up in disgust at the mere mention of that poor, misunderstood vegetable, was getting it out of the boiling pot. A boiled Brussels sprout is appealing only, apparently, to mothers. Do you know anyone else who serves boiled Brussels sprouts? I thought not. But when we grew up and got out of Mom's house, all of a sudden there were no rules and we started—gasp!—roasting and sautéeing those naughty little sprouts and doing perverted things like tossing them with bacon or dipping them in Sriracha aioli. And they were amazing. Now, everyone wants Brussels sprouts, like, all the time.
Perhaps, a short time from now, we shall say the same about cabbage. But! We will not be able to do that until I tell you how to make cabbage taste awesome.
The first thing to do is to acquire a small-to-medium head of green cabbage. Right now, at my grocery store, cabbage costs $0.29/lb. That's a sale price, but even on non-sale days cabbage is pretty darn cheap. So if you want to go ahead and grab a large head of cabbage because, seriously, so cheap, go on and do so. Just lop that sucker in half and stash whatever you're not using in the fridge. Another great thing about cabbage: It keeps for-frickin'-ever. What you want to end up with is about five or six cups of raw cabbage—that is, after you've shredded that beast.
Grab a big-ass knife for this operation, and also a big-ass bowl. Put that bowl near your cutting board. Three quick cuts: First, the stem comes off; then, cut your cabbage in half; finally, chunk out the tough core by cutting around it in an inverted V shape.
Now you're ready to cut that cabbage into some shreds. So: flip that sucker over on its flat side and slice-slice-slice-slice, moving the ribbons that you've sliced into that big-ass bowl I told you to put near your cutting board. For this purpose, try to slice that cabbage pretty darn thin. Quarter of an inch-ish sound good to you? Sounds good to me too.
Once the cabbage has seen the business end of your knife, slice up a large yellow onion. Not a small yellow onion, nor a medium yellow onion—you want to use a big 'un. It may seem like a lot of onion! That's okay, onions are delicious. Also it's going to lose volume as it cooks.
Speaking of big-ass things: You will also need a big-ass sauté pan for this operation. A big-ass dutch oven can also work. I use an 11" dealie, to give you a sense of what I'm on about. You also will need some tongs. But that's pretty much all, equipment-wise.
Heat that pan over medium heat. Let it get hot, okay? Think back to your Brussels sprouts, and how well they do in high-heat situations. Riiiight. Once the pan is pretty darn hot, add two tablespoons of olive oil. That oil will get shimmery pretty quickly, because the pan is already hot, so get your onions in there almost immediately after the oil goes in and start moving those babies around with your tongs to get 'em coated up and frying happily away. Allow them to gurgle and coo for two to three minutes, moving them around with the tongs to keep them happy and engaged with the world around them. Precious children, every last allium.
When the onions are translucent and have a touch of color to them, it's time to add the cabbage. Even with the big-ass pan you're using, this is going to be an add-the-cabbage-in-batches affair, as in, add a big handful of that cabbage you so lovingly shredded, grab your tongs and force that cabbage to submit to your will. It will not go down without a fight! But, you're bigger than the cabbage so don't be afraid of it, ya know? Once the first batch has been slightly tamed by the oil and heat and onions, add another big handful, mix it around, curse at it a bit if you must, and then add the rest of the cabbage.
The idea here is that you want to mix the cabbage well with the oil and onions. If I'm leveling with you, this tends to be ever-so-slightly frustrating a task. It involves a lot of picking up and turning and prodding with those tongs. But, have faith, because eventually that cabbage will submit. And when it does, oh! The result will be heavenly. Because that cabbage, combined with the onions, will have become browned and now the fun can really begin. Because now it is time to add some vinegar and make some damned magic happen. "Vinegar & Magic: The Jolie Kerr Story"
The vinegar is going to serve two—nay, three—very important purposes when it comes to this cabbage. The first is, duh, it's going to add delicious vinegar-y deliciousness. The second is that it's going to deglaze your big-ass pan which, by this time, probably also has an expanse of stuck-on brown bits covering its surface. The third is that it's going to provide just enough liquid to wilt the cabbage ever-so-slightly-more than just cooking it in oil, but not wilt it so much that it begins to resemble the soggy cabbage yarn of your youth.
Move the cabbage to the side of the pan—the stuff that's stuck-on is most likely concentrated in the center of the pan, so clearing the way for the liquid to hit it directly will make the scraping up of those bits easier—and add three tablespoons red wine vinegar to the pan. It will hiss and steam and provide some excitement! Moving quickly, use the sides of your tongs to scrape up as much of that good stuff as you can, then move the cabbage back into the center of the pan and, grasping at clumps of it with your tongs, use it to sort of mop the bottom of the pan, which will release more of that delicious brown stuff.
Now add a big fistful of salt and several hundred (rough count) rounds of fresh pepper from a grinder, because you love yourself enough that fresh pepper is a thing you keep in your home. Leave this whole glorious mess on the heat for another minute or so, giving it a good tong-ing to keep things moving around, before transferring to a serving bowl or directly into your mouth. Seriously, this cabbage is actually that good. Go make some. And hey, happy St. Patrick's Day—Erin Go Braless!
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Jolie Kerr is the author of the book My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag … And Other Things You Can't Ask Martha (Plume); more of her cleaning-obsessed natterings can be found on Twitter, Kinja, and Tumblr. You can also email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Image by Sam Woolley.