I’m going to tell you about my dismal failure in the cabbage cooking contest in Dillard, Georgia. You know Dillard is the cabbage capitol of the world, don’t you? Jane and Steve Tomlin host one of the best barbecue contests on the planet in Dillard the first week in August. And, just for fun, they make you cook cabbage as a side contest. They deliver a cabbage the size of a railroad car to your cooksite and then expect you to know what to do with it.
Now, here’s the thing and I don’t mean to be bitter. But I read the rules extensively before the contest and they say that the cabbage has to be recognizable in the entry. Now, what does that say to you? That coleslaw would be an acceptable entry. Creamed cabbage would be an acceptable entry. So, I was cooking a few years ago with the Chicks and we decided to make a slammin’, jammin’ coleslaw. It had pecans in it and dried cherries and this really fattening creamy dressing. And we all agreed, after a few glasses of wine, that it was the best coleslaw we’d ever eaten.
We finished last. And do you know what won? A chocolate cake. A chocolate cake with cabbage ground up so fine you could not even tell it was in there! I forgot for a minute that this was a contest that was just for fun (I’m not even sure there is such a thing) and started to protest the result. I mean you don’t even get money for this thing, but I felt like we were robbed. And don’t get me started on the grits contest that goes along with this. A pie won. A pie with grits that were so completely hidden that a grit detector couldn’t have found them.
The good thing that came out of this is that Tatty, my Chick friend, decided to buy about two bushels of cabbages in Dillard since it is the cabbage capitol of the world and gave a couple to me to take home. I had never considered the cabbage seriously until then. Yes, like its friend the Brussels sprout, it is a stinky vegetable. At the Dillard House restaurant, they cover it up with white sauce and cheese and it’s truly delicious. Here’s the recipe for that.
But, kind of like Iron Chef, I wanted to discover the true nature of cabbage. As is my nature, I researched about a gazillion cabbage recipes and found one that is the essence of simplicity, is truly delicious and has only two ingredients, if you don’t count the salt and pepper. Remember, all good Southern recipes have three ingredients or less.
Take a cabbage and peel off the outer two layers. You just don’t know where that cabbage has been. Slice it into thin threads. Melt a goodly amount of butter (no substitutes) in a skillet over medium high heat and add the cabbage. Salt and pepper to taste, which means about six to seven grinds of a salt and pepper mill. If you don’t have those, go to the Costco. They’re worth the trip.
Saute the cabbage until it starts to turn a golden brown. That’s what makes it taste good. You just need to try this once and, I promise, you will be hooked on cabbage. As the winter wears on, I’ll hold forth about turnips, rutabagas, parsnips and other vegetables you probably have not considered. But for tonight, go grab you a head of cabbage and leave the cake mix at the store.