In the dead of winter, we hanker for nourishing food that is not just comforting but also sparky enough to wake up our taste buds. I had two regular cabbages in the bin, red and green. Here, the red one is transformed slowly into an unctuous stew with red wine and red wine vinegar, accompanied by red onions and an apple or two, and spiced by a few whole cloves. That’s it. Other recipes add much more liquid than I do. I barely simmer the cabbage for a couple of hours in the oven at low temperature, basically ignoring it as I go about other tasks. Alternatively, I sometimes braise this on the stove, but with a metal plate between the pot and the burner to keep the simmer low. Either way, slow cooking pays off not just in minimizing effort but also in creating rich flavor and texture.
The cabbage tastes better the second day and keeps for a long time. It even freezes well. It can become a simple supper with potatoes and maybe some sausage, or a really swell side to roasted chicken or pork. I’m sure this can be made in smaller portions.
Braised Red Cabbage
1 small head of red cabbage, about 2 lbs, cored and thinly sliced (about 10 cups)
1 medium-large red onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
2 apples, halved, cored and thinly sliced
1 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
1 tsp sugar
2 cups red wine
½ cup red wine vinegar
4 whole cloves
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare the cabbage, onion and apple. Heat a small amount of oil in a deep pot with a tight fitting lid or an acid-resistant (not cast iron or aluminum) Dutch oven. Cook slowly until translucent, then add the remaining ingredients (other than salt and pepper) and stir to coat. If you don’t want to fish the cloves out later or crunch into them while eating the cabbage, poke them into a larger piece of the onion (like the top or stem end you were about to throw out after you made the slices). It will be easier to find them.
Bring to a simmer on top of the stove, then transfer to a 300 degree oven and cook for two hours, checking after the first to make sure the mixture’s not boiling, and if it looks bubbly, turn down the heat to 275 for the final hour. When ready to serve, season with salt and pepper to taste.