I can't play the Irish card on St. Patrick's Day, but that's okay. I'm usually the one on the receiving end of pinches as penance for forgetting to wear green. Traditionally, St. Patrick's Day is a day off from Lent for Irish Catholics, although on a grand scale in the States, it's become a celebration of all things Irish. (How green beer is tolerable in the name of the country that produced Guinness I'm still trying to figure out.)
I steer clear of green beer, but I look forward to the food specials. Irish food does tend to a monochromatic medley of browns, but that doesn't keep me away from corned beef, bangers and mash, and cabbage.
Cabbage is the unsung sidekick of St. Patrick's Day. My first impressions of cabbage weren't good. It had nothing to do with what I actually ate, but rather with what I read. I was an avid Roald Dahl fan, and in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, cabbage soup was what they ate only because they had to.
But look past the blank stare of a cabbage head, and you might find there's more to it, as you can dress it up or dress it down. On one hand, cabbage is a poor man's vegetable across many cultures for being cheap, bulky and full of vitamins A and C. On the other, there's no arguing the sexiness of glassy braised cabbage, transformed after a long slow simmer in flavorful cooking liquids.
When I think of cabbage now, I have trouble coming up with a cabbage dish I don't like. Kraut, coleslaw, kimchi, braises - they all do it for me. The fibrous leaves of cabbage hold up well during long cooking times, fermentation, or in rich dressings, which allows for a lot of flavor potential to build.
It's common to see green cabbage braises, often some sort of beer braise, alongside meat and potatoes. Brown and brown. For a richly hued Wisconsin twist, try this braised red cabbage and cranberries dish as a variation. The sweet, tart juice of cranberries brightens the earthy flavors of red wine and cabbage. The dish pairs beautifully with sausages and cured meats, or try it as a sauerkraut substitute for brats alongside a full-flavored mustard.
The preparation is minimal (about 10 minutes), and of the hour or so it takes to make this, most of it is unattended in the oven, which makes it great for when you're in a pinch.
In-a-Pinch Braised Red Cabbage with Cranberries
Makes about 2-1/2 cups
- 5 cups red cabbage (about half a small head), sliced into 1/8" thin strips
- 1 cup yellow onion, small dice
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil or vegetable oil
- 1 cup frozen or fresh cranberries
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup raspberry wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup Shiraz or red cooking wine
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat butter and oil over medium high heat. Sauté onions until translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add cabbage and salt, tossing until coated with onion mixture and cabbage begins to wilt, about 3-4 minutes. Add cranberries, sugar, vinegar and wine and bring to boil; lower heat and cook at a hard simmer until liquid thickens and reduces to half, about 7-8 minutes. Bake, covered, for 40 minutes. Serve hot.