When it comes to barbecues, vegetarians get the short end of the stick. While you're brushing fire-roasted ribs with your favorite mouthwatering barbecue sauce, we're crossing our fingers that there's some meat-free side dishes hiding away somewhere.
Don't get me wrong, we aren't complaining—thank you for going out of your way to grill us a tofu dog, really—but I'd love to eat at a cookout that didn't devolve into a 'feast' of corn on the cob and macaroni salad.
Listen: we vegetarians are just like you meat-eaters. We crave something hot 'n' juicy. We want to get BBQ sauce all over our hands and white tee shirts. Just... maybe not something that involves animal parts. Something hearty, with some bite, and a whole lotta flavor. Something like cabbage. Specifically: beer can cabbage.
Yeah, you heard me right the first time!
Beer can cabbage is the vegetable cousin of beer can chicken. It's a basted, smoky, slaw-stuffed cabbage steamed to perfection over a can of pale ale. And damn, does it beat the pants off of that grey-colored tofu dog in terms of flavor.
The best part, of course, is that beer cans usually come in six-packs or more... so you can cater to your veggie-loving friends and treat yourself with an ice-cold beer for being so considerate.
All hail Katherine Sacks, the genius creator of the recipe for beer can cabbage. She takes beer can cabbage to the next level by using the hollowed-out inside to make a slaw. Then she puts it all together to make the perfectly messy BBQ cabbage sandwich topped with cheddar cheese, pickled jalapeños, and grilled onions.
Katherine, thank you for thinking of us vegheads at the barbecue. You're the real MVP.
I've taken the liberty of breaking down the recipe into easy-to-follow steps below. (You're welcome.)
First, crack open a can of beer and start drinking. The beer will help you cope with the fact that you are about to grill a cabbage, not meat, on your beloved grill grates.
Okay, the real first step is to use a pairing knife to carve out a 3" x 3" square from the bottom of the cabbage. The square should be large enough to fit a (half-empty) 12-oz. can of beer.
Next, get digging. Use a spoon and a knife to carve a hole about 3" deep for the beer can to rest in. Reserve every bit of the inside of the cabbage for the slaw. Vegetarians don't like when food goes to waste.
Once you've successfully cut a hole into the cabbage, it's time to season it. Use a brush to coat the outside with oil, then sprinkle on a fair amount of salt and pepper.
Time for beer number two, because it's time to put the cabbage on the grill... and grilling without an alcoholic beverage in hand is more or less sacrilege.
Balance the cabbage over the beer can in a steady spot on the grill. Take care when working around the cabbage—you don't want the beer can to fall over and you definitely don't want your cabbage to roll away like a bowling ball.
Brush the cabbage with BBQ sauce and close the lid of the grill. Let the cabbage cook for about 45-50 minutes, while brushing with more BBQ sauce every 10-15 minutes.
Way better than supermarket macaroni salad. (Nope, not bitter, not one bit.)
When the cabbage is nice 'n' roasted, prepare the toppings. The original sandwich recipe calls for grilled onions, but you can grill any toppings that suit your fancy. Tomatoes, bell peppers, portobello mushrooms, and pineapple are a few excellent topping choices.
Carefully lift the cabbage off the grill and cut it into strips, then toss the cut cabbage in a bowl with—you guessed it—more BBQ sauce. We need everyone in the room to remember that vegetarians can eat messy food, too.
The cabbage is cut, the slaw is made, the veggies are grilled, and your buns are toasty. This means it's time to sandwich it all together.
Stack all of your toppings on a sturdy kaiser roll and show it off to all the meat-eaters. They're about to get curious, so I hope you've made enough for them, too.
You wouldn't want to eat a stick of tofu on a bun, so why would you feed it to your good friend, the vegetarian? Just because we don't care for meat doesn't mean we want to eat rubber! So be kind, save a pig, and make a cabbage. A beer-infused, BBQ-basted, juicy cabbage. Its messy deliciousness might surprise you.
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