On this side of the Atlantic, corned beef and cabbage may be about as Irish as a dish gets, but according to Darina Allen author of Forgotten Skills of Cooking bacon and cabbage is Ireland's national dish. This one calls for whole loin bacon, a British Isles export which is cooked along with the cabbage, sliced before serving, and paired with a creamy parsley sauce.
Unlike American bacon, Irish bacon is made from the back of the pig instead of the belly and is much leaner than streaky bacon. I used a presliced Irish bacon for this recipe but whole versions are available in British specialty shops.
Most of the flavor in this dish comes from the bacon that you choose. While preparing it, I realized that my bacon was relatively mild and added a few peppercorns and a bay leaf to bump up the flavor. The boiled bacon takes on a ham-like quality and the cabbage became plenty porky.
The bacon and cabbage is finished with a parsley sauce that's really nothing more than a béchamel made from milk infused with thyme, carrots, and onion, thickened with a roux and finished with plenty of fresh, bright parsley.
This Irish bacon, cabbage, and parsley sauce was a nice break from the ubiquitous St. Patrick's Day standard of corned beef and cabbage which I've always found a little over the top, especially when made from the prepackaged corned beef. Without all of the salt and spices you can really taste the ingredients that go into the dish—it's clean and fresh and decidedly Irish.
For the Bacon and Cabbage:
About 5 pounds loin, collar thick-cut bacon
1 Savoy cabbage
4 tablespoons butter
Freshly ground black pepper
For the Roux:
8 tablespoons butter
Scant cup all-purpose flour
For the Parsley Sauce
2 cups whole milk
A few parsley stems
1 sprig of thyme
A few slices of carrot (optional)
A few slices of onion (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 4 tablespoons freshly chopped curly parsley
Cover bacon in cold water in a large pot and bring slowly to a boil.
If bacon is very salty there will be a white froth on top of the water, in which case it is preferable to discard the water and start again.
It may be necessary to change the water several times, depending on how salty the bacon is. Finally, cover bacon with hot water, place a lid on the pot, and simmer until bacon is almost cooked, allowing 20 minutes for every 1 pound.
Meanwhile, trim the outer leaves of the cabbage and cut it into quarters, removing core. Discard core and outer leaves. Slice cabbage across the grain into thin shreds. If necessary, wash it quickly in cold water. About 20 minutes before the end of cooking the bacon, add shredded cabbage to the pot of simmering bacon.
Stir, cover, and continue to boil gently until both cabbage and bacon are cooked, about 1 3⁄4 hours.
To make roux, melt butter in a pan and cook flour for 2 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally. It will keep for two weeks in the refrigerator.
To make the sauce, add cold milk to a saucepan and add herbs and vegetables (if using). Bring mixture to simmering point, season with salt and pepper, and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Strain milk, bring it back to a boil, and whisk in 4 tablespoons roux until sauce is a light coating consistency. Season again with salt and pepper. Add chopped parsley and simmer over very low heat for 4 to 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 12 to 15|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 21g||26%|
|Saturated Fat 9g||44%|
|Total Carbohydrate 6g||2%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||7%|
|Total Sugars 2g|
|Vitamin C 12mg||59%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|