The braised red cabbage salad we had at Gretchens the other day reminded us that we do actually like cabbage. It can, of course, be awful – and a good way to stink up your house – but it doesn’t have to be. I discovered the appeal of plain green cabbage when I lived by myself in college – I had a miniscule food budget which I spent primarily on cabbage, potatoes and a single bottle of cheap white wine that lasted me the whole term (Sutter Home, I think it was). I would saute the potatoes and cabbage, then add wine and let the whole thing simmer until tender. Not bad, and as cheap as it comes.
Once my budget got a little healthier, though, I stopped buying cabbage as often. I would occasionally toss some in a Russian soup or make a coleslaw, but that was about it. Recently, though, I’ve become more aware of the possibilities of cabbage – especially braised.
Molly Stevens touts this as the best braised cabbage in the world. I can’t vouch for that as yet, but I can say it’s very easy to eat: tender, sweet, just a touch earthy. We served this alongside our favorite Ethiopian beef tartare and spiced curds, and it was the perfect foil for the hot green spice. You could also adjust the seasonings to reflect different cuisines: a bit of turmeric would make this very similar to the cabbage served at the Horn of Africa stand at the Folklife Festival (yum!) and maybe caraway and apples for a more Germanic take.
Because this braises for a long time, and I wanted it as part of a weeknight dinner, I did it in two steps: I braised the cabbage the day before, then put it in the fridge. The next day after work, I rewarmed it, then did the final roasting just before serving. Worked like a charm.
adapted from All About Braising by Molly Stevens
one head of green cabbage
one or two carrots
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chicken broth
pinch red pepper flakes
fresh ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 325°. Core the cabbage and cut it into eight wedges. Lay them in an oiled roasting pan – if they don’t all fit in one layer, set the extra aside for something else (we used some in a pork stirfry – delicious). Cut the carrots into 1/2 inch rounds and scatter over the cabbage. Pour the oil and broth over, then sprinkle with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Cover the pan with foil and put it in the oven. Let braise for two hours, turning the cabbage pieces halfway through. (This much can be done ahead of time)
Turn the oven up to 400°, remove the foil, and roast about 15 minutes so the cabbage turns a little brown on top – it produces a wonderful sweet crispy effect on the tips of the leaves. Sprinkle with fleur de sel, if you like, and serve the wedges either whole or chopped up.