Ever since I was a little kid, there have a been a few kitchen aromas that I've found absolutely irresistible: melting butter, turning browned and nutty in the pan; bright, freshly-grated lemon zest; and dark black coffee—long before I had the urge to actually drink it. But as of today, a new favorite tops my list: cabbage cooking down in bacon fat.
When Kenji told the recipe team that you, dear reader (hello!) have been poking around on the site for both cabbage and potato recipes, I decided to come up with something that not only united the two but also added—and why not?—some bacon for good measure. Googling around a bit, I found out that baked cabbage-potato-bacon casserole is a popular dish in most Eastern European countries, where it goes by various names depending on its exact geographic origin. The dish immediately appealed to me: Polish by blood, I've always loved the rich, hearty, simple meals common to the region (though, doubtless, my Jewish ancestors would frown upon my use of bacon in this recipe).
The preparation couldn't be easier: you crisp some bacon bits, fish 'em out, then cook down a whole mess of shredded cabbage and chopped onion in the smoky lard the bacon has left behind. You stop and savor the aroma; then, when you're good and ready, you mix in some parboiled potatoes, some cream for (more) richness, and some fresh parsley to help cut through that richness. Pack the mixture into a casserole dish, top with some mild grated cheese, and 40 minutes later you'll tuck into a browned, bubbling, soul-satisfying winner of a winter dish that will bring you some warmth on these cold nights.