One of the first things you’ll notice on a first visit to the Frog Leg Inn in Erie, Michigan, when one of the servers brings your first-ever entrée plate, there will likely be a pile of moist, shredded cabbage with a few other things in it. It’s a curious thing, that cabbage. Like I did, you’ll probably mistake it for sauerkraut at first, and if you don’t like sauerkraut, you may not want to try it. But I like sauerkraut, so that’s not me … You might also mistake it for a strange type of cole slaw, and wonder why you now have cole slaw since you already had a house salad.
Get past all this. Try it. It’s wonderfully sweet, slightly tangy but only just … and, if you’re like me, you’ll eat every last shred of it, even mopping up the juices with some of that great bread.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I could probably eat the stuff by the pound.
Up until only recently I didn’t really know what it was, referring to it only as, “a kind of sweet-and-sour cabbage, but mostly sweet”. Still, I knew that couldn’t really be right either. And for quite some time, I’ve coveted a copy of the recipe. (Yes, Mr. Treece, my goal for today was, “Use the word ‘covet’ in a sentence.” Well, no, really it wasn’t …)
Yesterday afternoon, while discussing a bunch of other schtuph with Chef Tad, I finally got up the nerve to ask for this particular recipe. Almost instantly, it was on his computer screen. Going a step further, I asked if I could share it with y’all.
Well, guess what? Here it is …
There are a couple of notes for this recipe. The copy Chef Tad handed me lists savoy cabbage, which I believe is what they use at the restaurant. The Chef said you’re probably not going to be able to find savoy cabbage, and if you do, you might have to travel quite a distance to get it. An “everyday” cabbage, nice and fresh, will certainly render great results, so go ahead and use it. But if you can get the savoy, you’ll like it much better.
If you’ve had the Braised Cabbage at the restaurant, you’re probably wondering why slab bacon is listed here. This is actually one of many variations on this recipe. This version happens to have slab bacon in it. If you don’t want the bacon, or if you’re a vegetarian, simply don’t add it. That’s fine. Just use some of the vegetable oil for that first sautéeing.
Finally, If you like it more tart or sweet, you can adjust the sugar and vinegar as necessary. Don’t be afraid of making adjustments like these. Make it the way you and your family would like it.
Braised Cabbage with Slab Bacon
Tad Cousino, Executive Chef
Frog Leg Inn, Erie, Michigan
1/2 head cabbage
1/2 red onion
2 ounces slab bacon
3/8 cup cider vinegar
1/8 cup sugar
Cut the core from the cabbage and shred it. Julienne the red onion by slicing it thinly lengthwise, then cutting it further till it’s the thickness of toothpicks. Dice the slab bacon into chunks smaller than 1/4″. Set a sauté pan on high heat and let it get nice and hot. Add the chunks of bacon and lower the temperature to medium heat. Add the onions and sauté briefly. Turn the heat back to high and add the cabbage. Right away, add enough oil to just coat the cabbage. Keep stirring almost constantly while keeping a close eye on the cabbage. When the cabbage is just barely heated through, but far from tender, add the sugar and vinegar. Reduce the heat to the pan and simmer until the cabbage is tender. Once the cabbage is tender, add salt and pepper to taste. You can either serve this immediately as a hot dish, or chill it to serve cold at a later time.