I’ve seen more varieties of cabbage in Ireland, then anywhere else in the world that I’ve been. The Irish love their cabbage. And I love both the Irish and their cabbage.
Ireland is full of happy, cheerful people who greet strangers on the street with a smile and a kind conversation. I think it’s because of the weather. Anyone who lives in a skitsofrantic climate like Ireland’s, would have to find some way to deal with it. I mean anyone who can deal with rain one minute, sun the next, a storm the next and back to rain again in the next, would have to find a way a positive way to deal with or go crazy. And why not deal with a great attitude? Or maybe the Irish are just a little crazy. Whatever they are, I like them. But I’m a little crazy as well.
The cabbage certainly benefits from the Irish weather. It seems to prefer the partially cloudy, sometimes cool, sometimes warm rainy days. It’s sweet and yummy. And there’s so many different kinds. I’m used to round red or green heads and savoy. While I knew there are more types, it just doesn’t seem like we can find them in the stores in the US.
In Ireland, I have yet to find the typical round heads we have back home. Most of the types are conical in shape. And so tasty. The flavor is awesome. It tastes like the cabbage out of my garden. Full of crisp, slightly chewy wonderful spicy flavors.
Grocery store vegetables just aren’t the way to go anymore. They are bred for size, weight and shelf lasting abilities. Not flavor. The flavors in good vegetables grown on local farms or your own garden are always much better than those in the grocery store. partially because they are picked at the right time instead of slightly green for shipping and partially because of the varieties chosen.
Cabbage is also good for dishes besides slaw or corned beef and cabbage. By the way, the Ireland Irish didn’t make up the corned beef and cabbage recipe. It’s usually only served in the tourist restaurants in the country. It’s an Irish-American dish, created right at home in the USA.
My recipe for Sauteed Cabbage and Leeks with Pancetta is based on the traditional Irish cabbage and leeks. Only I fused in a little grana padano, milk and use pancetta instead of bacon. You could skip the cheese and milk and use bacon instead. If you want to!
Pancetta is the Italian version of bacon. It’s much leaner but still has plenty of nice juicy fat to render into a vegetable based dish such as this one. And it doesn’t take much of it to do it. Add too much and you’ve overpowered the sweet flavors of the cabbage and leeks. With a little, you end up with beautiful salty fat infused into sweet slightly oniony crunchy textured cabbage. It’s so good!
Serve this as a side dish or eat it as a main for lunch, as the hubby and I did. It has just enough beautiful fat and yumminess in it that you don’t feel like you’re just eating a bowl of cabbage. So forget turning that head of cabbage into slaw and enjoy the savory flavors of Sauteed Cabbage and Leeks with Pancetta.
Sauteed Cabbage and Leeks with Pancetta
A traditional Irish dish infused with a little Italian flare.
1 2 to 3 lb. head of cabbage, roughly chopped
3 leeks, sliced and cleaned
1/4 cup (80 grams) pancetta, diced
1 Tbsp. Irish butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, if desired
3 Tbsp. milk
2 Tbsp. Grana Pandano, Parmesan or Pecorino Romano, grated
Salt and Pepper to taste
Add pancetta and butter to a large skillet, heated over medium heat.
Toss in garlic and leeks. Add red pepper flakes if desired. Cook until leeks are starting to soften. Add cabbage.
Saute cabbage mixture until cabbage is cooked to your desired preference.
Pour in milk and grated cheese. Stir well to melt cheese into a sauce.
Season with salt and pepper.
Something Besides Slaw Cabbage Recipes: