I’ve been wanting to make my own braised red cabbage since we visited Prague, Czech Republic last fall. On our first evening in the city we ate at a restaurant where I ordered the local speciality of roasted duck. Much to my delight it was served with a side of braised red cabbage. I had forgotten that I actually liked red cabbage and from my first bite of the sweet and savory vegetable I was reminded of childhood meals cooked by my Polish Nana. I was immediately inspired to make this recipe at home. However, my family is not a fan of cabbage so I put off making the dish but when I spotted the pile of bright purple cabbages at the local market this past weekend, I was inspired me to try my hand at this traditional Eastern European dish.
Much to my surprise, my one Polish cookbook did not include a recipe for any form of red cabbage. Really? Growing up I was taught that cabbage was a staple of all Polish (and Eastern European) cooking. I did find a recipe on the William Sonoma website which sounded like the dish I remembered from childhood. The following recipe is adapted from the original one I found and the resulting dish tastes just like the one I ate in Prague and the one I remember from my childhood. Although hands on time is minimal, the cabbage needs to cook for over an hour before it reaches the correct tenderness so be sure to plan accordingly! To complete the Eastern European theme, I served the cabbage alongside some grilled Albanian-style kielbasa (which was surprisingly authentic in both taste and texture) and some potato and cheese pierogi. My Polish ancestors would be so proud!
BRAISED RED CABBAGE
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium-sized red onion, thinly sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons honey
1 red apple, thinly sliced
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1/4 cups dry red wine
3/4 cup water
1 red cabbage, cored and sliced into shreds
Zest of 1 orange
- In a large fry pan over medium heat, warm the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and a pinch of salt and sauté until the onion is soft and translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the honey and cook for 1 minute more.
- Add the apple slices and vinegar, raise the heat to medium-high and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring the liquid to a boil, then add the wine and water. Season with a generous pinch each of salt and pepper and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the liquid begins to reduce, about 10 minutes.
- Add the cabbage and, using tongs, toss well to coat with the liquid in the pan. Cover the pan and cook the cabbage, stirring occasionally, until it begins to wilt, 25 to 30 minutes. Uncover and cook until the cabbage is tender and most of the liquid has evaporated, 25 to 30 minutes more.
- Taste and adjust the seasonings. Remove the pan from the heat and finely grate the zest from the orange over the cabbage (reserve the fruit for another use). Stir well to evenly distribute the zest, then transfer the cabbage to a warmed bowl and serve immediately.
SERVES: 4 to 6.