Red (cabbage) alert

25 11 2011

I had such ambitions, I did, of posting up every single new recipe I’ve tried and doing a blog post on all my holiday meals. Unfortunately, I haven’t been satisfied with the results, so for now, I’ll have to settle for a quick hit on the product of a recent lingering desire to do something with red cabbage.

A quick preamble: The Husband and I love The Clocktower on Bank Street, especially as we have some sweet Entertainment Book coupons for the place. The Clocktower has the best specials in town: the first time we went there, we had these amazingly huge and surprisingly inexpensive swordfish steaks.

My red cabbage obsession stemmed from the second or third time we went, both getting specials yet again. The funny thing is, it wasn’t even the main dish – it was accompanying a perfectly delicious main of corned beef, I believe. But the braised red cabbage on the side was a revelation.

I’m not a lettuce/cabbage fan. On the few occasions that I get a sandwich, I usually get everything but the lettuce. If I’m having a salad, I much prefer spring or spinach mixes. Mostly, I think lettuce is bland and boring, and I’ve always associated cabbage with lettuce. Cabbage rolls are good, but they’re usually smothered in sauce, meat and cheese, so I don’t think they really count.

Anyway! As I was saying, my Clocktower cabbage was absolutely delicious: crisp, tangy and honeyed, it was the highlight of my meal and honestly changed the way I think about cabbage. Since I’d been looking for new ways to do vegetables, and red cabbage was on sale, I decided on the fly to buy a head and look for a similar-ish recipe.

The following is very, very loosely based on a braised red cabbage recipe from Epicurious.com, plus a slew of Internet comments and some stuff from Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything. Mostly, I just threw in stuff that was lying around in my kitchen until it tasted right.

I love the rich colour of the cabbage, especially in contrast with my trusty orange mixing bowl.

1 head red cabbage (quartered, cored and finely shredded)
1/4 cup (or 1/2 stick) butter
1 4 oz. container of Mott’s unsweetened mango peach applesauce
Chicken stock
4 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 tsp brown sugar
Several drizzles of honey to taste
1/4 cup garlic salt
Salt & pepper to taste

Start by removing the core of the cabbage head. Bittman recommends cutting out a cone-shaped section, but I opted to follow the advice of an online blog that said just to cut the head into quarters and cut out the core from there. Much easier.

From there, it’s pretty easy to shred the cabbage – as you can see from the first picture, it’s pretty much in held-together shredded form already, so all you have to do is cut thin slices from the cross-section and it falls naturally into julienned pieces (FYI, I’ve always wanted to use “julienne” in a sentence but never had the opportunity. Thank you, red cabbage, for helping me fulfil my dream).

I think the reason I wasn’t able to follow the Epicurious recipe was because we must have monster cabbage heads here in Ottawa. I’m sure I picked out the smallest head in the display, but no matter. It completely filled my biggest mixing bowl. Observe:

At least it meant we’d have lots of leftovers.

After melting the butter in a large pot (I used a Dutch oven that was barely enough for the job), I added some salt and the applesauce. The recipe called for 3 tbsp hard cider or red wine, and I had neither in the house but I’d read that applesauce was a passable substitute, so I decided to try it.

Forgot to take a picture before using it. But at least you’ll know what size the container was.

It actually did add quite a fun apple-y flavour to the cabbage, although it could probably have done without it as well. At this point, I also added the chicken stock, although I’m not sure how much. Bittman said to use 1/2 cup.

I did a lot of tasting while wilting the cabbage, a lot of salting and peppering (as one recipe commenter said: “Don’t be shy with the salt.”) I also added much more red wine vinegar than the 1 tbsp called for in the Epicurious recipe – I estimate it was about 5 tbsp, but it could probably have been fine with just 4 tbsp. I think it’s really a matter of taste.

As well, I followed some of the comments that recommended a bit of brown sugar, putting it in a teaspoon at a time.

However, by now I was really just trying my darnedest to get the recipe to taste right, as it was still lacking a certain depth. Adding more sugar, salt and vinegar wasn’t doing it for me, so I put a couple of drizzles of honey in. Voila! I was getting closer.

The real kicker, however, was copious amounts of garlic salt to taste. Garlic salt – how I love thee! That was what I really needed to get that depth. Don’t know why I didn’t think of it before.

The finished product is an otherworldly pinkish-violet. Pretty tasty, and my husband – also not a cabbage fan – was decidedly enthusiastic.

Full disclosure: I paired it with some Hamburger Helper Four-Cheese Lasagna, so it wasn’t exactly a gourmet meal. But definitely a keeper for future weeknights!

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2 responses

25 11 2011
dave w

nice. red cabbage was always a staple for me at large family gatherings growing up, can’t say i liked it as a kid, but it’s enjoyable now. i think we always had the canned/ pickled stuff though.

2 12 2011
giana

red cabbage is quite good pickled with some sausages in a sort of german style, yummmmmm cant wait to have some of your cooking for my next visit !
but I will have to try this recipe soon!!

xx

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