Sunday, March 16, 2014

Smothered Cabbage with Pork

Pork pan-fried until the edges are crunchy and caramelized, smothered with plenty of onions and cabbage, seasoned with chilies and freshly ground black pepper is home cooking at its Louisiana best.

In southern Louisiana, we like to smother things. My mother says that growing up, she never had a crunchy vegetable. Green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, okra, eggplant, you name it, it was cooked till soft and mushy. Now when she’s making maque choux, she cuts the fresh corn off the cob and barely introduces it to the heat and calls it done. I’m really not sure what my grandmother would think. We all think it’s very tasty.

My maternal grandmother has been mentioned on these “pages” before. She was a woman who had it all, before we even knew what that looked like. She ran her own business with my grandfather, raised three girls, kept a tidy house and cooked a full meal for dinner (what she called the midday meal) every day of the week, with an extra full menu on Sunday. Their major appliance store was on Center St. in a small town and their house was right behind it. She’d nip away to get dinner started and leave a pot roast or round steak, smothered with onions, simmering on the stove while she attended to customers and answered the phones. She and my grandfather would close the store for dinner and open again after they had eaten and they had watched their stories, which is what they called the soap operas. The characters on The Guiding Light  and As the World Turns were part of daily life and their adventures were discussed as if they were neighbors. They had been watching those characters live their lives for almost 20 years so by the mid-1970s, when I started eavesdropping, the conversations were candid and, frankly, a little bit alarming. John Dixon’s wife Kim wants to divorce him! He forced himself on her. Is it rape since he’s still her husband? This was pretty radical stuff for daytime television. Even my grandfather was hooked.  If I sat quietly on the periphery, the grownups never even noticed me there, with my wide eyes and bigger ears.

Anyway, the point of all this is that dishes that could simmer, covered, were easy favorites for a woman trying to run a store, cook a meal, and keep up with her stories, and this cabbage with pork was no exception. It’s still one of our favorite dishes so, when I make it, I make a BIG pot. We can eat this for days!

This week’s Sunday Supper theme is Eat Your Greens in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Our host with the most is DB from Crazy Foodie Stunts and we have a great round up of green dishes and drinks for you.  Make sure to scroll on down for the link list.

Ingredients - for six to eight servings
4 thick pork chops, bone in (Approximate weight 2 lb 10 oz or 1200g)
White vinegar (just a few tablespoons)
Sea salt flakes
Black pepper
Monosodium glutamate (optional) – my grandmother used something called Adolph’s Meat Tenderizer. But I use MSG since none of us have a sensitivity to it.
2 heads cabbage – I used one normal cabbage and one Savoy – total weight 7 3/4 bs or 3500g
1- 3 small red chilies – This is my addition. My grandmother would have seasoned this dish with cayenne and black pepper so if I don’t have fresh hot chilies, I do that instead.
2 large onions (Approximate weight 1 lb or 500g)
11 1/4 oz or 320g smoked slab bacon
Olive oil

Cut the bone off the pork chops, leaving a little meat for those who like to chew the bones, by which I mean me.  Cut the meat into small chunks and sprinkle the bones and chunks with some plain white vinegar. (I keep one bottle with a lid that has holes cut into it for easy sprinkling.)

The vinegar helps tenderize the meat as it marinates.
Season the meat liberally with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, cayenne and, if desired, MSG.

Put the pork into a bowl and toss it around so that all the pieces are well seasoned. Cover with cling film and set aside to marinate.

Cut the bacon into similarly sized chunks.

Core your cabbage and then slice it into thin pieces. Set aside a couple of handfuls of the very greenest pieces for adding to the pot right at the end. Smothered cabbage may taste delicious but it’s not the prettiest dish. Adding some bright green at the end helps with this.

Peel and slice your onions thinly. Split the red chilies down the middle then mince them finely.

In a big pot, big enough to hold all your ingredients, and that has a tightly fitting lid, heat a good drizzle of olive oil and start to pan fry the pork, including the bacon, a few pieces at a time.

As they brown, remove them to a plate and keep pan frying until all the pork is wonderfully browned and caramelized. Add a little more olive oil along the way, if necessary.

Once all the pork is browned, you should have some lovely sticky stuff left in the bottom of the pot too. Add another drizzle of olive oil then the sliced onions and chilies.

Pop the lid on and let the onions sweat for a few minutes.  Use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape all the delicious brown bits off the pot.

When the onions are translucent, add the pork back into the pot, making sure to scrape in any juice that pooled in the bottom of your plate.

Right here I need to tell that my grandmother would have cut the cabbage into larger pieces and put it all in at once and cooked till it was smothered down and completely soft. So feel free to use her method if that appeals to you. I add mine in a bit at a time so that when the pork is cooked and tender, there is cabbage of varying degrees of doneness in the one pot, all the way from melted into almost nothing to still just a bit crunchy.

So here it goes, my way. Add about one third of the cabbage to the pot and put the lid back on. No need to stir yet. Simmer over a medium low heat until the cabbage is wilted and soft, about 20-25 minutes.

Remove the lid and give the whole thing a good stir.  Add in another third of the cabbage and put the lid back on. Simmer for another 20-25 minutes before removing the lid and stirring the pot. The second batch of cabbage should be wilted now too.

Finally, add in all but the couple of handfuls of the greenest cabbage leaves and put the lid back on again. Simmer, covered, for another 20-25 minutes.

Stir the pot and season with salt and black pepper to taste. Finally, add in the last green handfuls of cabbage and stir. Cook for just a few more minutes until those greens are slightly wilted but still a little crunchy.

These were the outer leaves of the Savoy cabbage. I saved them because they are a much brighter green than the normal cabbage. 


Eat Your Greens this week! Now you have no excuse not to!

Green Light Appetizers and Sides
Getting Greens Through Salads
Entre├ęs That Will Leave You Green With Envy
Desserts and Beverages That Will Make Others Turn Green


  1. Great story about your grandparents! And what a wonderful dish passed down to you. I don't cook enough cabbage and this dish will remedy that! It sounds amazing.

  2. This looks like a PERFECT meal of comfort food! Pinned and shared! It was nice cooking up #SundaySupper with you ")

  3. I love your tip about the vinegar with holes punched in it, perfect for the busy cook. Great story about your grandma and having it all. This dish sounds so tasty!

  4. WOW!!! With each scroll down, my mouth watered more.

    I have to make this recipe…SOON!!!!

  5. Pork and cabbage are a perfect match! This sounds delicious!! Can't wait to try it!

  6. I like this southern tradition of smothering things!

  7. Looks great! Gotta love the pork & cabbage combo.

  8. Oh my how wonderful this looks! I love how you cut up the pork chops and I believe I would like them that way. Also, your grandma was a special woman, wasn't she? I love that they eat lunch and watched their stories - like my Nana. As the World Turns was one I remember watching with her........oh yes, and The Secret Storm! :)

  9. This looks absolutely scrumptious! Seriously, my tummy is rumbling right now. If this is home-style Louisiana food, take me there now. Another reason why the state is pretty much number one on my list of places to visit when I return to the USA...

  10. Thank you, Kim! You always leave the sweetest comments!

  11. It is indeed, Manu. Sometimes I even add potatoes to make it even heartlier. Just don't tell my mother. :)

  12. Adding the last green bits of cabbage at the end really help to bright it up, Jennifer.

  13. Thanks for pinning, Lee Ann! I think whole generations were hooked on Guiding LIght and As the World Turns. Personally I followed All My Children but when I was at my grandparents no channel changes were permitted!

  14. I make it a couple of times a year, Liz, minimum. When I am with my mother, it's always her first request, right after smothered pork chops.

  15. Thank you, Mimi. It's is a wonderful comfort dish when it's cold outside.

  16. Wonderful cooking up Sunday Supper with you too, Becca! Thanks so much for pinning and sharing!

  17. When I buy a new bottle, I just use the old lid again. Very handy for seasoning any kind of meat or poultry! Thank you for your kind words.

  18. Thank you, Betsy! I hope you do make it and enjoy it as much as we do.

  19. They are indeed, Jennifer. And the smokey bacon adds even more flavor.

  20. Me too, Shaina! Except when I want crunchy vegetables but I can do both!

  21. Yep, gotta love it, David! They go so nicely together. Thank you!

  22. She was a very special woman, Kelli. Did your Nana call them "stories" too? I didn't know if that was a Louisiana thing or a southern thing.

  23. This sounds just delightful! Crispy pork, the cabbage and the bones! Yes I like to chew on them too. Drives the pug nuts. :-)

  24. We have the BEST food in Louisiana, especially if you like spicy things! You do need to visit, but, meanwhile, there are loads of great recipes on line to try. Don't wait!

  25. The bones are my favorite part, Susan, and I don't even feel bad for the Boxer since everyone knows that pork bones are not good for dogs. :)

  26. pork and cabbage .. yummm!!! I absolutely love cabbage and that first shot of your dish, Stacy, is absolutely beautiful! looks so good!

  27. Oh my goodness that shot of the crispy pork has me drooling right now. I do love cabbage and pork together.

  28. That looks amazing - and your pictures are fabulous!

  29. This is an absolutely GORGEOUS dish!! Great job!

  30. Your trick to get the green at the end is brilliant! I must do that in the future. Thanks for the inspiration!

  31. <----This half-German gal wants a double helping of this please and thank you.

  32. My grandma used to watch her "stories" too! And the same ones, plus The Young & The Restless! I love this crispy pork!!

  33. That looks pretty awesome--definitely my type of meal! My mom was so hooked on her stories, that when a scheduling conflict arose, she'd drag the little TV from her bedroom into the living room, so she could watch both shows simultaneously! Now that's dedication :)


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