This recipe for Southern fried cabbage is courtesy of Shantell Williams, chef/owner of Shantell’s Just Until… in downtown Sanford. Fried cabbage is a popular side at the restaurant, where guests can also tuck in to specials of oxtail, jerk shrimp and Williams’ justly famous fried chicken. This deceptively simple dish comes together in under ten minutes—cook it a little longer if you prefer it burnt like Williams’ kids do. If you’re feeling fancy, throw in a bag of frozen mixed veggies towards the end and serve with rice or cornbread for a satisfying vegan meal; it also pairs beautifully with chicken, fried or otherwise.
2 tablespoons peanut oil or other high-heat oil such as grape-seed oil
3 large cloves garlic, peeled (leave two whole and thinly slice the other)
1 small head green cabbage, cored and sliced (not too thin)
2 sprigs fresh thyme, or a pinch dried
½ teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon coarse salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat oil and whole garlic cloves in a large, preferably cast-iron skillet over medium heat until garlic is very brown. Using a strainer or bowl, rinse the cabbage under cold water and drain, leaving some water on the leaves. If using fresh thyme, toss the springs into the hot oil and drop the leaves directly on top—stand back (or use a splatter screen). Scatter the sliced garlic, paprika, salt and pepper (and dried thyme, if using) on top. Turn heat up to medium high.
Use tongs to mix the cabbage and seasonings without disturbing the bottom layer. Once you hear the cabbage sizzle—two or three minutes—put a lid on the pot and turn it down to low. Allow the cabbage to sweat for about a minute, then take off the lid and turn the heat back up to medium. Stir occasionally, bringing the browned bits of cabbage up from the bottom, for another minute or two. If the moisture dries up put the lid back on and sweat it again; the final result should be soft, uniformly browned and have lots of juices for sopping up with cornbread or spooning over rice.