The Great Indoors: A vegan option for beer can chicken

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FARGO — It's probably kind of a hassle to be a vegetarian at a barbecue. While there are lots of great recipes out there for those who choose to go meatless, how many revolve around the trusty backyard grill?

I know when we've had vegetarian guests over for a night of grilling, we'll buy a pack of veggie burgers because we're not sure what else to do. While I'm not vegan, I like the nutty flavor of a veggie burger and sometimes even prefer it to a regular one. But having veggie burgers every time you grill can get a little dull.

That's why I took note when I saw this recipe for Beer Can Cabbage Sandwiches. It's a similar concept to Beer Can Chicken where half a can of beer is stuck into the chicken and slowly grilled so the bird absorbs the flavor of the beer. This recipe uses the same concept but the beer can is placed inside a cavity of the cabbage. Once grilled, the cabbage is cut and then mixed with barbecue sauce and onion. It's served on a Kaiser bun with coleslaw and other fixings. I actually added a little kale to the coleslaw because I liked the green color and thought it added texture to the slaw.

The recipe has gotten great reviews on Epicurious, the site where it originated. But I have to admit, this wasn't my favorite. It was messy and a lot of work to baste the cabbage every 15 minutes. The cabbage tipped over on us once (until my husband pointed out that we owned a beer can chicken rack which stabilized the cabbage). If you're vegan or vegetarian this might be worth a try for you. But I think I'll stick with my veggie burgers.

Beer Can Cabbage

Serves: 6 sandwiches

Ingredients:

1 large purple cabbage (about 3 1/2 pounds)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more

1 (12-ounce) can pale lager

2 cups homemade or store-bought barbecue sauce (preferably Kraft Original Barbecue Sauce), divided

1/2 large white onion, cut into ½-inch rings

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/4 teaspoon honey

1 medium carrot (about 6 ounces), coarsely grated using the grater disk on a food processor or the largest holes on a box grater

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

1 handful of kale

6 seeded Kaiser rolls or sturdy hamburger buns

12 slices cheddar cheese

Directions:

Prepare grill for medium-high heat. Cut a 3- by 3-inch square around core of cabbage at the base. Carefully remove core with knife. Using knife and a spoon, create a 3-inch deep cavity in cabbage, big enough to hold a beer can. Discard core but reserve leftover cabbage from hollowing out cavity.

Using a brush, coat cabbage with oil, then season generously with salt and pepper. Pour out (or drink) half of the beer. Place beer can in cavity of cabbage so cabbage sits upright. Transfer to grill.

Using brush, generously coat cabbage with 3 tablespoons barbecue sauce. Cover grill and cook cabbage, brushing with sauce every 15 minutes, until outer leaves are crispy and dark brown and cabbage is cooked through and tender when pierced with a paring knife, approximately 45 to 50 minutes total.

During the last 5 minutes of cooking, grill white onion rings until charred. Meanwhile, whisk mayonnaise, vinegar, honey and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl. Thinly slice reserved cabbage. Add to bowl with dressing along with carrot, kale and red onion; toss to combine. Remove cabbage from grill and discard can. Let cool slightly. Cut grilled cabbage in half lengthwise, then slice each half crosswise into ¾ inch strips. Coarsely chop white onion rings and toss with cabbage in a medium bowl with remaining 1 1/4 cups barbecue sauce (you should have about 6 cups barbecued cabbage). Halve rolls and grill until toasted, about 30 seconds. Arrange 1 cup barbecued cabbage on each bottom bun. Top each with 2 slices cheese, 1/4 cup cabbage slaw and top bun.

Recipe altered from Epicurious.com