This cabbage dish, a Venetian recipe called “sofegao,” meaning “smothered,” is a perfect example of excellent slow cooking. Shredded cabbage, combined with onion, olive oil and a little vinegar cooks slowly in a covered pot and turns into a silky, flavorful concoction redolent of the natural sweetness of the cabbage and subtle tang of vinegar. I learned this technique from Marcella Hazen’s second volume, More Classic Italian Cooking and I make it both in the summer to accompany grilled meats and vegetables and in the winter when it makes a great accompaniment to sausages and potatoes. I use much less olive oil than she does in her version.
I came across a smoked pork hock for 20 cents (actually there were five for a dollar) in the “manager’s special” section of the meat department and, as my mother says, I “couldn’t afford not to buy it.” I had been thinking of using the ham hock in sauerkraut, but decided instead to bake one piece smothered in cabbage. By the time the cabbage was done (1 ½-2 hours), the meat was falling off the bone and I chopped it into small pieces to serve mixed in with the cabbage. Since the hock was smoked, it did not yield fat into the cabbage as I feared, but rather lent it a nice aroma.
Smothered Cabbage adapted from Marcella Hazen
1 smooth green cabbage, about 2 lbs
1 medium onion, chopped, about ½ c
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Core and finely shred the cabbage. Cook the onion in the olive oil over medium heat until golden (5-10 minutes) and add the garlic. Then add the cabbage, stirring and turning it until it is coated and slightly wilted. Add the vinegar and a little salt and pepper. Cover the pot and turn the heat down to a minimum. (I use a metal disk between the burner and the disk.) Cover for 1 ½- 2 hours until very tender. Adjust the seasonings. Serve hot or warm.
Variation with smoked ham hock: Bury a smoked ham hock in the middle of the cabbage before the last step. When the cabbage is finished, remove the hock and slice or shred the meat, adding it back to the cabbage before serving.