Tue Nov 4, 2014
Unless it's turned into coleslaw, I can't say cabbage is a very attractive vegetable to me. I've had it in the back of my mind to try grilling cabbage for years, but all the recipes I came across relied on roasting it, with or without a stuffing, until tender. I see little to no appeal in mushy, soft cabbage, so it never popped out at something I should make over anything else. Then over at Serious Eats, Kenji did a post on grilling cabbage that kept it tender-crisp, had an excellent char, and paired it with a number of dressings I could totally get behind. Instantly cabbage turned from something to actively avoid into a dish I needed to grill as soon as possible, which is exactly what I did.
I can never quite just follow a recipe though—I need to feed my creativity, plus if it's an exact copy, it's no longer fodder for blogging. So I decided to use the process of grilling Kenji laid out, but devise my own dressing. For this I looked towards a Japanese influence, starting with a mild white miso base. That paste gave the dressing a strong, flavorful fermented start, but I built more around it by adding brown sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, mirin, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, and white pepper. The end result was an incredible salty, sweet, and spicy sauce that had that special umami character I knew would work wonders on the cabbage.
Next I prepped my cabbage as I waited for the fire to fully light. For grilling, butchering this brassica was quick and easy. I simply pulled off some of the dirty, darker green out leaves, then cut it up into six wedges. Since the root needs to stay intact to keep the leaves in place during grilling, it really is as simple as making six cuts and done.
When my two-zone fire was ready, I then placed all of those wedges over direct high heat. They began charring pretty quickly—just around two minutes on the first side. I grilled each of the three sides until they developed attractive blackening around the edges of the leaves.
Once they had that, they still needed some more cooking time to become tender enough for eating, so I moved them over to the cool side of the grill, covered, and let them cook until crisp-tender. This required an additional 4-5 minutes.
At this point they looked as beautiful as I hoped and only got better after spooning on the sauce and garnishing with scallions and cilantro. My enthusiasm for trying this out was totally justified in the end—the cabbage was freaking incredible. The contrast between the cabbage leaves' soft and crunchy spots was spot-on, and made even better by the fragile charred edges that had a light smoky flavor. The dressing elevated it even more as it seeped between the leaves, making each bite a complex mixture of sweet, salty, earthy, and tangy. As I was eating it, I had a hard time fathoming that I was eating lowly cabbage...and that it was stealing the spotlight from the grilled meats I had alongside it, which is saying a lot.
Grilled Cabbage with Ginger-Miso Dressing
- Prep Time:
- 20 Minutes
- Cook Time:
- 10 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 30 Minutes
- 4 to 6 servings
- For the Dressing
- 3 tablespoon dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons white miso paste
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- 2 teaspoons finely minced ginger
- 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1 medium head of green cabbage, cut into 6 wedges with the core left intact
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 scallion, thinly sliced
- Kosher salt
- To make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together brown sugar, soy sauce, miso paste, vinegar, mirin, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, crushed red pepper, and white pepper. Set aside.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place cabbage wedges on hot side of grill and cook, covered, until well charred on first side, about 2 minutes. Flip cabbage, cover, and cook until charred on second side, another 2 minutes. Flip wedges to third side, cover, and cook until well charred, another 2 minutes. Transfer cabbage to cooler side of grill, cover, and continue cooking until mostly tender but still crunchy in center, about 4 minutes longer.
- Transfer cabbage to a large bowl and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Transfer to a serving platter. Drizzle with sauce, garnish with scallion, and serve immediately.