01 February 2010

I Met A Blond for Dinner in Napa, and It Was Good

I bet she was the kind of blond that would make a bishop want to kick a hole in a stained glass window, if he was inclined to drink enough of her. As for myself, I wasn't in the mood for vandalism or desecration, I was in the mood for dinner. Good on me, that I had the following lovelies in my fridge:

2 slices dry-cured Virginia ham, about 8 ounces total*
1 head of Napa cabbage, about 2 pounds after trimming
2 medium sized carrots
1 bottle Leffe Blond Belgian ale**

Now, I know what you are thinking: why not sit down with fork in one hand and glass in the other, and just set to on the victuals as is?

Because I aims to be all civilized, like. And that means some cooking is in the offing. So here is what occurred to my head bone while I was driving home from work, Tuesday night last week. I had been eyeballing the last two ham slices for a bit, having been inspired by a most excellent fried ham slice with egg, that I had for breakfast the Saturday before. This is top notch stuff and I wanted to do something special with it. My first thought was to make a ham and egg omelet: easy, quick and very tasty. But then I recalled my resolution to eat more vegetables, and remembered that I had also bought a head of Napa cabbage, which was waiting patiently in the crisper drawer. Ding! Light goes off! How about a saute, Gumbo-style?

Eureka! The plan came together like so. I would cut the ham into smaller pieces, fry them gently until just getting brown, then tip in the cabbage, cook until done. Sounded good, but I felt something was missing. I know: sauce or gravy of some sort. But how to get it?

That's when inspiration struck again. Why not a saute-braise combo, with the braising liquid...beer. Oh, yeah, now I'm on to something! I actually had three types of beer in the fridge, Anchor Bock, Sierra Nevada Bock and one Leffe. For whatever reason, my hand fell on the blond (hehheh) and that became the beer of choice.

I needed something else, though, some color...the cabbage was white and pale yellow-green, the ham a dark pink to sort of wine-red. How to brighten it up? Carrots, of course. The orange would make a good play against the other ingredients, I thought, so into the mix they went. I crossed my fingers, made an offering to the kitchen gods, and got down to it.

Open bottle of ale. Pour 2/3 to 1 cup into a bowl or cup and set aside. Sip the rest while you cook. Trim root end from cabbage. Slice leafy portions off ribs. Slice leafy portions into ribbons. Cut ribs into smaller pieces, about the size of a quarter. Slice carrots on the bias into pieces about an eighth of an inch thick, try to get them the same size as the cabbage ribs. Cut ham slices into pieces about an inch to inch-and-a-half wide on each side. Place ham slices in a large skillet (one that has a lid) and saute gently over medium heat. After they begin to color up a bit and render some of the fat, stir in the cabbage rib pieces and carrot slices. Stir to mix, and let saute for two to three minutes, until they begin to release some juices. When ready, drop in a handful of the cabbage ribbons and stir. Let the shrink (which they will) and then stir in more cabbage ribbons. Repeat until all the cabbage is in. Stir to mix and let saute thirty seconds to a minute more. Turn the heat up to medium high if needed. Season the mix with fresh ground black pepper to taste. Pour in the reserved ale, bring to a boil, them reduce the heat, place on the lid and simmer until the carrots and ribs are tender. It will take about 6-8 minutes, test as you go.

For something I made up off the top of my head...it was much better than it had any right to be. It was tasty, and I had to restrain myself from eating the entire pan. I served it in a big bowl, over steamed long-grain rice with bay leaf and herbs and black pepper in the water. There was a fair amount of liquid in the pan, and it made a good sauce for the rice. I didn't use any salt because the Virginia ham is salty, and seasoned the dish up quite well.

Photos? My apologies, dear readers, I was having so much fun making the dish, and eating it, that I forgot to take any this time. Next time, I'll write myself a note...

*In case you are curious, the ham was from S. Wallace Edwards & Sons, in Surry, Virginia. Prime ham country, that is, and Edwards is primo stuff. They know from pig!
**A tip o' the tam to my bloggy friend, Mo "Mad Dog" Stoneskin, for bringing Leffe to my attention. Thanks, Mo! Everyone drop by his place, give him a read, drop some luv and tell him I sent you.


  1. I used to love ham, but I've been a vegetarian for twenty years now. I'll go for the blond!

  2. "Sip the rest while you cook"

    You just described the most important part of my cooking technique. Sipping the rest. I never cook without doing so!

  3. We throw this huge soup party every year--this year's big hit (out of eight soups) was the beer, cheese & sausage soup. The amount of Guiness I drank during the preparation of two crock pots of this dreamy concoction is directly proportional to it's success....or so I swear.

  4. I'm not terribly fond of beer - as you know, scotch and wine are my poisons of choice - but I like to use it in marinades as long as the result is not "beery". This sounds quite good; the next time we have a pale ale in the house (Beloved drinks beer from time to time), perhaps I'll try it (without the rice; I've gone on the refined carbohydrate bandwagon LOL).

    Rats on the pictures; that's what I kept wondering about until I rad your disclaimer.

  5. Mmmm (drooling like Homer) Duff ...Now I'm hungry, and thirsty.

    Thanks for stopping by my new little blog.

    For the record, I havent cut one damn thing from my diet ever...I eat and drink it ALL.

    Off to fetch me some ham and an ale.

    Peace out,

  6. so you tease
    and then no pictures
    you really do have a mean streak in you, irish
    for shame....

  7. Very interesting recipe, my dear! I would have never thought to put beer in ham and cabbage, but may have to give this a try!

  8. You should have eaten the whole thing.

  9. Corned beef time is right around the corner, the Guiness beckons. This sounds like a pre-St Pat's supper. Cheers!

  10. I'm actually kind of happy you didn't post a picture. I might have jumped through the computer trying to eat some.

  11. Oh dang! I thought you had a date!

  12. glad the food and drink were good though.

  13. Kinda sounds like me when I cook. Must have a glass of wine, and a bottle nearby, a little for me, a little for the pan. Mmmmm


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