What's In Season

You Should Be Roasting Cabbage Whole

This simple cooking method transforms the staple into a sweet and creamy late-winter star

Photo: John Burgoyne

A few years ago, the chefs Kristen Essig and Michael Stoltzfus were touring a garden on Lummi Island in Washington State when they sampled some fresh-from-the-dirt cabbage—a tightly packed cone-shaped variety. It was so silky and sweet that it inspired the co–executive chefs to add cabbage to their menu at Coquette in New Orleans. “I didn’t grow up eating a lot of cabbage besides coleslaw,” says Stoltzfus, who was raised on a working dairy farm in Maryland. “I really came to understand the nuances when we roasted cabbage whole at Coquette for the first time. It turns so soft and almost custardy yet still maintains a meaty rich flavor. We have been hooked ever since.”

Available from late November through early spring in the South, cabbage varieties range from light green to dark purple. For the more common round, green heads, look for a fairly compact cabbage with a few looser exterior leaves that aren’t wilted. It will keep up to a week in the refrigerator whole, or just a few days once sliced. Of course, you can stew it or use it in such Southern staples as slaw and even gumbo, but Stoltzfus and Essig love it in sauerkraut. “It is one of the easiest classic ferments,” Stoltzfus says. “Sauerkraut makes so many things better: sandwiches, stews, scrambled eggs. It goes great with any cooked meat or sausages.” The chefs’ go-to move, however, remains slow-roasting (see recipe). “It basically steams itself, and the outer leaves create a barrier to keep the middle moist and tender,” Stoltzfus says. “General-
ly, the fresher the cabbage, the higher the water content, so it steams quickly and evenly. I just love the simplicity of it.”

The Chefs Recommend:

Charred Green Cabbage
Yield: 4 servings

1 large head of green cabbage
2 tbsp. melted butter
1 lemon
Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 300°F. Rinse and dry the outside of the cabbage and place it in the oven on a baking sheet. Roast for about 2 hours, until outer leaves are very dark and a small knife goes into the core easily. Remove from oven and carefully peel off and discard dark leaves until you reach less-browned layers. Cut cabbage into quarters, then brush with melted butter and char on a hot grill until caramelized, about 2 minutes. Squeeze lemon over top and sprinkle with salt to taste. Top with chopped chives and roasted sunflower seeds. Serve with any grilled or roasted
meat or fish.

Why it works: “It’s buttery and sweet, and has just enough texture to exert itself but not overpower other ingredients.” —Kristen Essig, co–executive chef, Coquette