March 7, 2010

Cabbage Resurrected

So, there's this thing called cabbage.... and then there's this thing called cabbage. If you're curious, there is a difference.

My first recollection of this specimen was via the Cabbage Soup Diet. Although I did not partake, it was a hit in the Midwest during the late 90s, and rumor has it there may still be devoted followers... poor things. If they exist, we probably can't see them - being so slight and all. The Diet essentially 'tricked' you into consuming massive amounts of water from this low-calorie, sweet soup. Funny how we humans think sometimes. I don't understand what's so difficult about drinking a glass of water every now and then. But forcing insipid soup down the hatchet 3 times a day - now that's an idea sure to work! Sarcasm aside, I'm not here to talk about diets. I'm here to talk about the resurrection of cabbage.

Numerous food bloggers I follow have written about this recipe in the past year. Since I had the book sitting right next to me on my new, huge (!) bookshelf, I came to see trying it as an obligation- despite the Diet-enforced damage that had been done in my mind concerning the lowly cabbage. Since the completion and consumption of this recipe, cabbage has resurrected itself from soggy, white chunks (floating in what resembled dishwater) to bulbous, toasted, sweet pillows. Now, dear readers, I pass the duty on to you.

Keep in mind that when it comes to flavor, adding heat instead of water will get you quite farther. (Out with boiling and in with roasting!) Adopting the roasting mindset does require one to get over their fear of fat. Yes, you'll have to use a little. But you'll be so much more satisfied with what really tastes good, that you won't need so much. Just listen to yourself. It's tricky at first, but it is much more effective of a method to being comfortable in your skin than the evil we spoke of above.

There isn't much fat involved in this recipe as it uses a method called braising- in which you let a particular food cook in a small amount of liquid, covered, at a low temperature, for a long time. It's covered roasting, you could say, with a touch of liquid. Although it requires the most difficult ingredient to come by, patience - it yields the most sexy cabbage you'll ever fork in.

Note: I've quickly come to see I'm not much of a recipe person. I don't cook line-by-line with recipes, so it's hard for me to decipher them to you. I will give you my adapted versions of recipes, but be flexible and work with what you have and with your personal tastes in mind. The dish will turn out much better - for you. Like butter over olive oil? Use it. No salt? Fine with me. Different shape of a pan? Great, I hope the cabbage gets quite comfy.

Braised Green Cabbage
All About Braising by Molly Stevens

1 medium head green cabbage (I prefer Savoy)
1 large yellow onion, thickly siced
1 large carrot, cut into 1/4-inch rounds
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, optional
(I didn't use the carrots or onions as I didn't have any on hand, but I imagine they'd add more sweet elements)

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly oil a large (9x13) baking dish. I used an oval Emile Henry ceramic gratin dish which worked fine too. Peel off and discard the ragged outer leaves from the cabbage. Cut the cabbage into 8 wedges (in a vertical half, then into 4 vertical wedges each.) Arrange the cabbage in the baking dish, enough to make a single layer. If the cabbage doesn't all fit, use some for coleslaw.

Scatter the onion and carrot over the cabbage. Drizzle the oil and stock over the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. Cover tightly with foil, and slide in to the middle of the oven to braise until the vegetables are completely tender. It may take up to two hours, in which time you can get a great deal of other things done around the house.

Once the cabbage is completely tender, remove the foil, increase the oven heat to 400 degrees, and roast until the vegetables begin to brown, another 15 minutes or so. Serve warm or at room temperature, with more salt and pepper if you wish.

*You might be tempted to turn up the heat before this last step, and get it done with already. But don't do it! It defeats the whole purpose. It's like a bath, why would you draw a scalding-hot bath and hop in, just to hop out? As it is with this cabbage, its full experience and extraction of essence is greatly dependent on the time you give it to relax.


nidusweavers said...

OMG! I'm so proud of you for actually listing ingredients and instructions. Cabbage has surely changed your life. Eddie and I will have to try it right away. I'll let you know the outcome. xo


I have many family members that would absolutely love this recipe.

Sprout said...

Yes, it's a very family-friendly recipe indeed. I think my mother made it only a few nights after I posted!

mangocheeks said...

I'm always looking for ways to eat the humble cabbage, so this recipe is really appreciated.

Sprout said...

Sure, Mangocheeks. I also had better hopes for the humble cabbage and knew its potential could be put to better use! Thanks for writing.