By Rose McAvoy
When I think about the meat I ate in Ireland, the first thing that comes to mind is bacon. Not the long thin strips of bacon common in the U.S. The bacon I think of is called rashers or back bacon. This is a slightly leaner cut from a different part of the pig. Rashers are usually cured but not smoked. They have a tender meaty texture, cook up far less greasy than strip bacon, and make a very satisfying addition to breakfast, lunch or dinner. My favorite way to prepare rashers is sauteed in a pan with mushrooms, bell peppers, and tomatoes then served over toast, for breakfast, or rice, for dinner.
On this side of the Atlantic, tracking down rashers proved to be a difficult mission. Until now. I have recently discovered Galway Traders, an Irish gift shop in Seattle, often has a few packages of frozen rashers in stock. There are also several websites that mail order the ingredients for a traditional Irish Breakfast. You can order a number of English or Irish style frozen meats for next day delivery in the U.S. from these sites. For me rashers are a treat that I am willing to make a special effort to cook at home once or twice a year. On the other rare occasions I use bacon in a recipe, I like to pick thick cut strips as lean as I can find them (not very lean).
For this recipe I made a trip into Seattle to buy my first package of rashers in seven years. It was really fun to turn such a humble dish into a special event. The rashers were perfect with the slow braised cabbage and onions. I loved they way the kick of spice played off the mellow richness of Guinness. The finished dish had a full spectrum of tastes I have not previously associated with cooked cabbage. Mr. Second Helpings gave it two thumbs up while The Little Helping worked very hard to pick the bits of meat out of his pile of cabbage. Unfortunately this dish won’t be winning any beauty contests but don’t be fooled by its appearance, this is not your grandma’s boiled cabbage.
Guinness Braised Cabbage and Bacon
This side dish is not quite Irish but certainly appropriate for St. Patrick’s Day and pairs great with potatoes.
Prep time 10 minutes; Cook time 1 hr. 15 minutes; Yields 6 servings
- 1/2 pound thick cut bacon or rashers, coarsely chopped
- 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced onions
- 1 tablespoon dry herbs de Provence
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 head (about 1 1/2 pounds) green or white cabbage, cored and thinly sliced — equal to around 4 cups
- 1 (12-ounce) bottle Guinness Black Lager or Stout
Brown the bacon in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, until cooked through, about 5 minutes. If possible, carefully remove all but a couple teaspoons of the bacon fat.
Add the sliced onions, cayenne, black pepper, sugar, and dried herbs. Stir frequently, until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes.
Add the cabbage and mix well (tongs are helpful to incorporate the cabbage). Continue to stir until the cabbage begins to soften, 3 to 4 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium-low, and add the beer. Stir to mix.
Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Remove from the heat and serve warm.
Approximate Per Serving (with rashers): calories 125, fat 5.3 g, carbohydrate 11 g., protein 6 g., PP = 3
Approximate Per Serving (with thick cut bacon): calories 185, fat 10 g., carbohydrate 11 g, fiber 3 g, protein 10 g, PP = 4
Recipe slightly modified from Emeril’s Favorite Cabbage Recipe on foodnetwork.com.