From T., 21 December 2009, Preparing savoy cabbage?

Q: I have a savoy cabbage in my fridge. Actually it’s been there about 2 weeks. a) can i still use it b) have a link to an easy recipe for me?

A: Savoy cabbage is a colder-weather vegetable, and, like a lot of colder-weather vegetables, it will last for weeks or even months under refrigeration, although it’s best to use it promptly if you can. So check out your cabbage – is it still green? Do the leaves appear crisp? Or are they yellow and wilted? If it’s still green and crisp, you’re good to go.

Cabbage, like all brassicas and like onions, contains a certain amount of sulfur in the plant cells, which forms trisulfides with long cooking. Trisulfides are responsible for that rank “cabbage-y” smell, so the best way to avoid the smell is to keep the cooking time brief – long enough for the cabbage to become tender, but short enough to avoid the formation of trisulfides – and to remember not to keep cabbage warm by constant exposure to heat. Raw cabbage also can become surprisingly pungent – cutting the cells, and exposure to acid, increase the production of the compounds that give cabbage and other brassicas their characteristic pungency; soaking in cold water, by contrast, not only diminishes the volume of those odorous compounds, but crisps up the leaves.

So the golden rules for preparing cabbage are to keep the cooking time short, and, if preparing raw, to soak the sliced or shredded cabbage in cold water, draining well, before using any acid like a vinaigrette.


Here are two simple recipes for preparing savoy cabbage. One is a main dish, and the other a side.

Orecchiette with savoy cabbage and pancetta

Note: you can substitute a number of vegetables for the cabbage, if you like. Kale is great, as is broccoli rabe, and cauliflower is delicious. If you don’t have pancetta or guanciale, you can substitute bacon, although the finished dish will have a different, more smoky and sweet, taste.

1 small head savoy cabbage (about 1 lb), quartered and shredded
2-3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 small onion, diced
8 ounces (dry weight) short pasta, like orecchiette
1/3 lb pancetta, diced (preferably while frozen to make it easier)
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, or pecorino romano cheese
olive oil
salt and black pepper

Set a large stockpot full of water on the stove, toss about 2 tbsp kosher salt into the water, and bring it to a full rolling boil.

Meanwhile, set a skillet (frying pan) on the stove over medium heat and, when hot, add the pancetta. Allow the fat to render, and stir occasionally as it browns.

When the pancetta is brown and crisp, turn off the stove and, using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta only to a small bowl and set aside. Spoon off all but about 1 1/2 tbsp of fat from the pan – there shouldn’t be much if you use pancetta, but if you are using guanciale or bacon, there will be. Reserve fat for another use.

Put the skillet with the fat back on the stove and turn the heat back up to medium. Add the onions and sauté until the onions are light golden brown. Do not allow to burn. Add the garlic and sauté until the garlic is soft. Then add the shredded cabbage and cook, stirring, until tender, adding a tbsp of pasta water if necessary. When tender, return the pancetta to the pan. Set aside off heat until the pasta is done cooking.

Add the dry pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente. Ladle off a little of the pasta water into a small bowl. Drain the pasta and add to the cabbage and bacon. Toss well, adding a little pasta water to loosen if necessary.

Add grated cheese to taste; add salt if necessary. Season with a drizzle of olive oil and black pepper.

orecchiette, savoy, bacon

Butter braised savoy cabbage

This side dish is really nice with roast poultry or pork – it’s good with salmon as well.

1 small head savoy cabbage (about 1 lb), quartered and shredded
3 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 c chicken stock
leaves from 3 branches thyme, or 1/4 tsp dried thyme
salt and black pepper

Meanwhile, set a skillet (frying pan) on the stove over medium heat and, when hot, add 2 tbsp butter. When it begins to foam, add the garlic slices and sauté until just tender; then add the shredded cabbage and thyme, and, using tongs, toss to coat with the butter. Add 1/4 c chicken stock and cover, cooking until just tender, adding more stock if necessary to avoid burning. If holding for more than a minute or two, keep the lid slightly ajar to avoid steaming.

Toss with 1 tbsp butter; season with salt and pepper to taste.

One thought on “Savoy.

  1. Pingback: At the Savoy. « The Upstart Kitchen

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