For years, St. Patrick’s Day has meant corned beef and cabbage at my house. It’s a basic but beloved meal the whole family enjoyed.
Almost. Everyone liked the corned beef, soda bread, even the steamed new potatoes, but after several years of making the same menu on March 17, I realized no one ever ate the boiled cabbage.
I didn’t take it personally. Boiled cabbage can have a rubbery, almost squeaky texture, and the smell, well, let’s just say it’s fragrant.
It only took a decade or two for me to figure out there are much better ways to showcase the iconic cruciferous vegetable than drowning it in a pot of boiling water.
Cabbage, with its slightly sweet, slightly peppery flavor, deserves much better treatment on St. Paddy’s Day and every other day. Whether it’s the basis for a crunchy slaw, sweet and sour cabbage rolls, spicy kimchi or on top of a hot dog in the form of sauerkraut, cabbage can be a delicious part of any meal.
Of course, no one knows it better than the Irish, who use cabbage in all sorts of dishes, usually with potatoes or bacon, or both.
One of my favorite ways to cook with cabbage is to put it in soup — especially this Creamy Cabbage, Cheddar and Bacon version. In this recipe, I like to use Napa cabbage, because it’s a little sweeter and milder than green cabbage, but any cabbage will work.
The soup starts with bacon, as all good things do, which is sautéed with leeks and the thinly sliced cabbage. Sautéing the vegetables before adding the stock adds flavor and draws out their natural sweetness.
Next, the stock and diced Yukon Gold potatoes are added and simmered until tender. Heavy cream and shredded Cheddar cheese (Irish Cheddar, if possible) are swirled in at the end.
The result is Ireland on a spoon. Rich, comforting and sure to make you feel lucky when you find out the pot at the end of the rainbow has soup in it!
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Instagram at @meredithdeeds.