Braised red cabbage with dried cherries, and parsnip pureé
We don't think of red cabbage as being a glamorous or sought after winter vegetable, but once you've try it slightly sweetened, with a small amount of cider, wine or vinegar, and some dried fruit, it will almost certainly become a wintertime necessity. Cabbages mark the cold weather months, offering filling warmth and satisfaction when cooked until soft. I did not truly understand or appreciate red cabbage until I worked with German and Swiss chefs, who treated the humble vegetable like their national flag, with love and respect. The key to respect when cooking red cabbage is to allow enough time to braise it slowly. A tight-fitting lid on the pot helps to retain the reddish purple coloring, which is anthocyanin, and keep the moisture circulating within the pot, ensuring plentiful braising liquid which I recommend enhancing with a touch of butter.
When served with a creamy parsnip puree, braised red cabbage becomes the perfect accompaniment to roasted chicken or loin of pork.
This recipe comes from my first cookbook, Wildwood: Cooking From the Source in the Pacific Northwest, which suggested serving the cabbage with mushroom spåetzle and roasted duck breast.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
For the braised cabbage
2 whole cloves
1 teaspoon juniper berries
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small red onion, thinly sliced crosswise
1 small red cabbage, halved, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup apple cider
2 tablespoon sweet vinegar, such as balsamic
1/2 cup dried cherries
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
For the PARSNIP PUREE
1 pound (about 3 medium) parsnips, peeled and cut into one inch each chunks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Juice of half a lemon
2 to 3 gratings whole nutmeg (use a microplane)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Finely grind the cloves, juniper berries and fennel seed using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a wide stainless steel pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for a few minutes, adding a splash of water if needed, to prevent them from coloring before they begin to soften. Add the spices, cabbage, wine, cider, vinegar, cherries and salt to taste. Stir to combine and bring the contents of the pan to a simmer. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cover the pan. Continue to cook, stirring every 10 minutes or so, and checking the amount of liquid in the pan.
Cook the cabbage for 35 to 45 minutes, adding more wine or cider if the liquid seems to be evaporating quickly. Meanwhile, prepare the parsnip puree.
Put the parsnip pieces in a pot, cover them with cold water by at least 1 inch, and generously salt the water. Bring the contents of the pot to simmer over high heat, reduce the heat to a simmer, and gently cook for about 30 minutes, or until the parsnips are soft. Remove about 1 cup of the cooking water from the pot and set aside. Drain the parsnips.
After they have cooled slightly, place the parsnips in the bowl of a food processor or a blender jar with a small amount of the reserved cooking water. Pay close attention as you add the liquid, watching for the puree to change from thick to slightly thinner. The desired consistency is thick and creamy, with a little bit of body and stiffness, so that the puree holds its shape on a plate. Once the the desired consistency is reached, add the lemon juice, butter and the nutmeg and remove the puree back to the pan for reheating.
When the cabbage is soft, with some liquid remaining in the pan, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and freshly ground black pepper to taste. You may want to make other adjustments at this point: I have been known to add a spoonful of honey to finish the cabbage, if my audiences has a preference for something sweeter.
To serve, fill 4 to 6 shallow warm bowls with the cabbage, spoon some parsnip puree alongside, and top the cabbage with chicken, pork or a sausage, if desired.