Having grown up with lots of people always around, all the time (my parents had nine children) – in a food-crazy state like Louisiana, it seems there also always was a correlating abundance of sustenance at our house. Ten-gallon stock-pots filled with gumbo were the norm. We had a 16-cup rice-cooker going nonstop, it seemed, to keep up with the steady supply of rice we required. Massive barbecues that usually involved chicken, pork, beef, and sausages, were always accompanied by mounds of potato salad, regular (or eggplant) rice dressing (Popeye’s calls it “Cajun Rice”), vats of baked beans, swimming-pool-sized tubs of green salad, and something particularly ’70s – macaroni “salad,” which was cold pasta mixed with various bits of miscellaneous vegetables, mayo, and, for some reason, dried oregano (aka “pencil shavings” to my taste buds). We had the biggest cast-iron Dutch oven you could get, usually filled with something like squirrel sauce piquant, or a hefty Boston butt, or, one of my favorites – jambalaya, usually made from several days’ worth of leftovers.
When Momma brought home the occasional bag – ONE bag! – of Oreos, she was always surprised that the contents of the bag would disappear – whoosh!!! – in seconds. Don’t have nine babies if you want one measly bag of Oreos to last more than a minute!
Anyway, looking back with a more critical eye now, several decades later, I realize we didn’t always eat gigunda meals like that. There were many meals that were stripped down – and quite simple. The recipe below is one of those. What I particularly love about it is that it comes together really quickly, and can be done to feed a large group or fill just a couple hungry bellies: Sautéed cabbage with sausage and/or tasso (cured/smoked pork shoulder) over white rice, served with a side of cornbread. This meal is very satisfying during the winter months, but I think we had it all year long – in between those gigantic gumbos and barbecues. If there was ever any leftover cornbread, it would most probably be consumed crumbled into a bowl of milk with some sugar, by whomever awoke first the next morning. (I have a “Coonass Cornbread” recipe coming in a future post – it has a surprise ending!)
Sautéed Cabbage Over Rice
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound of chopped Andouille or kielbasa sausage (or tasso, if you can get it)
1 large onion (about 2 cups) diced
4 cloves of chopped garlic
1 medium (about 2 lbs) head of cabbage, chopped into 2-inch square pieces
1 large red bell pepper, diced
Seasonings (For this amount of cabbage, I used 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, 1 tablespoon of black pepper, 1 teaspoon each of garlic powder and onion powder, and one chicken-flavored bouillon cube, dissolved in a cup of hot water.)
In a Dutch oven or other heavy-gauge pot with a cover, heat the oil for a minute on medium-high before adding the chopped sausage or tasso (or a mixture of both). Brown the meat for five minutes.
Add the diced onion and sauté for another 3-5 minutes until clear.
Make a space in the middle of the pot, add another teaspoon of oil, then the chopped garlic and let that cook for about 30 seconds before mixing it all up.
Add the chopped cabbage, and stir all ingredients together, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot. Add the seasonings, stir.
Cook, covered, on medium heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the chopped bell pepper, mixing all ingredients well. (I add my bell pepper last because I like it to retain some crunch – you can add it earlier – right after the garlic – if you prefer your bell pepper pieces to be fully cooked.)
Serve immediately over white (or brown) rice.
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