Now don’t turn up your nose right away. I know, I know — sometimes the word “cabbage” brings up images of bland cole slaw or bitter and flaccid boiled green cabbage. Yecch. Luckily, I’ve got the perfect recipe to change your mind about this cruciferous vegetable, and lend color and dimension to your holiday table.
Red cabbage, in my opinion, is green cabbage’s more attractive and flavorful sister, and she’s cheap and easy to boot — inexpensive to buy and easy to cook, that is. Besides using it in the obvious slaw, red cabbage is also great when braised and served as a side to just about any chicken, pork or meat dish, and lends a punch of fuchsia to a table otherwise filled with drab browns and greens.
It’s all about playing with the flavors to pair them with the rest of your meal. Typically, many of us serve Americanized versions of European dishes during the holidays — spiced roasts, herbed vegetables, etc. So for this particular flavor profile, I’ve kept this German-style braised cabbage fairly simple, seasoning it with tart apples and apple cider vinegar, red wine, caraway seeds (often seen in rye bread), sugar and a hint of cinnamon. If you’re planning an Asian-inspired feast, I’d suggest going with flavoring agents like rice wine vinegar, five spice powder, ginger and sesame seeds; for a Latin American fiesta, go with cumin, garlic, chile powder and lime juice.
To kick this dish up a notch (and to please the carnivores), fry a few slices of bacon in the pan and use the drippings in place of the oil or butter. If you’re expecting vegan or vegetarian guests, start the dish with canola or vegetable oil as I’ve done in the recipe below. And any diners with gluten allergies will also be plenty pleased with this edible offering.
Best of all, braised red cabbage is even better the day after it’s made and would make a tasty addition to any leftover turkey sandwich.
Braised Red Cabbage with Apples
3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil (or butter)
1/2 onion (yellow, white or red), sliced thin
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 small or 1/2 large red cabbage, cored and cut into thin shreds
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and sliced into thin matchstick pieces
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup red wine
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan, pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Throw in the onion and caraway seeds and sauté until the onions begin to turn translucent (about 5 minutes), stirring occasionally.
2. Turn up the heat a bit, add half of the cabbage, stir and let it wilt a bit, then add the other half. Add the apple and salt, and stir it around for a minute or so.
3. Pour in the apple cider vinegar and wine, throw in the sugar and cinnamon and stir so that all of the cabbage is wet. Cover with a lid or aluminum foil, leaving a small vent, turn the heat down to medium-low and let it simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. When all of the cabbage is wilted and soft, and the liquid is evaporated, it’s ready to serve. If the cabbage is soft, but there’s still a fair amount of liquid on the bottom, turn up the heat to medium and let it simmer, uncovered, until it has evaporated. Season to taste with more salt and pepper and serve warm.