Rice, Bacon, and Cabbage Soup

Rice, Bacon, and Cabbage Soup
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Truth is, it was hard to find a truly pretty picture to post along with this recipe because the ingredients aren't so gorgeous.  Cabbage.  Leeks.  Bacon.  They are even less pretty when cooked down into something delicious.Here is my pretty head of cabbage, waiting to be disrobed.

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Although, I think this might be the prettiest piece of bacon I have seen in a long time.  It is decidedly not something you will find at the supermarket.  Rather, if you are fortunate enough to buy from a person who slices to order from a slab, you will occasionally be offered the end piece - on the house!  I love the end slice.

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I immediately start imagining what I can cook that will honor its delicious, thick, odd-shaped self.  When my butcher offered me the slice last week I immediately thought of the cabbage sitting in my fridge.  Could I make a stew out from the two?  I knew if anyone could help me it was Molly Wizenberg, author of A Homemade Life and Delancey.  The girl loves cabbage.  Specifically, cooked cabbage.

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She didn't let me down.  This was incredibly delicious.  It deserved to be served alongside a fresh pint on a cold night next to a roaring fire.  Sadly, I had none of those things to accompany it, but it was absolutely delicious nonetheless.

This is the prettiest picture I could take...remember, it's what's on the inside that counts.
This is the prettiest picture I could take...remember, it's what's on the inside that counts.

Rice and Smothered Cabbage Soup (Adapted slightly from Molly Wizenberg's blog, Orangette)

1 batch smothered cabbage (see below)

1 end piece of slab bacon (or 2-3 slices thick cut bacon)

2 cups vegetable broth **

1 cup water, plus possibly a bit more

2/3 cup Arborio rice

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

About 1/3 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

** Although Molly suggests chicken or beef broth, I made a quick veggie broth using the dark portions of the leek not used in the recipe for smothered cabbage (below), along with a carrot, a stick of celery, a bay leaf, and a few peppercorns.  I simmered those ingredients together for about an hour and called it a day.

In a good size pot (4 quarts), combine the cabbage, broth, and 1 cup of water, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Stir in the rice, then lower the heat so that the soup bubbles at a slow but steady simmer.  Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender but firm to the bite, about 20 minutes.  If you find the soup is becoming too thick, add a few tablespoons of water.  The soup should be thick, but with some liquid.

When the rice is done, turn off the heat, and stir in the butter and the grated Parmesan.  Taste, and correct for salt.  Serve with black pepper and more Parmesan.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

***

Smothered Cabbage, Venetian Style

1 large leek (white and light green parts only)

1/4 c. olive oil

I head green cabbage, quartered, cored, and very thinly sliced

2 large garlic cloves, chopped

Kosher Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 Tbsp. white or red wine vinegar

Place leek and olive oil in a dutch oven (or another pot approximately the same size), and set over medium heat.  Cook and stir until the leek is softened - about 8 minutes, then add the garlic.  Cook until fragrant - 1 or 2 minutes - and then add the sliced cabbage.  Turn the cabbage a few times in the pot to coat with oil, then continue to cook until wilted.  Add a couple generous pinches of salt, some pepper, and the vinegar.  Stir to mix and cover the pan and reduce heat to lowest setting.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for at least 1.5 hours, or until the cabbage is very, very tender.  If the pan seems dry at any point, add a few tablespoons of water.  If the pan seems dry at any point, you can add a tablespoon or two of water.  When the cabbage is done, taste for salt and season as needed.

This cabbage can be made a few days ahead of the soup, if needed, and freezes nicely (double batch!!)