The perfect accompaniment to Pork Belly Confit!
The first time I had braised cabbage was the night I stayed for dinner at Celmainis’s house in my grade 11th year of high school. I loved it! (and I loved them!) I had no idea what it was and did not come close to a similar dish for many years, oddly enough. When deciding what to plate with my pork belly confit (coming next: stay tuned) at our Pastry Tasting* dinner, I decided it had to be braised purple cabbage. And, no, I had never made it before. Never. Isn’t that unbelievable? It is so delicious, so easy to make, certainly economical and nutritious enough. And a perfect food for our winter climate.
I used the same Austrian bacon I had purchased for the Latvian Bacon Buns I now make every year at Christmas, thanks to that same, dear, sweet Mrs. Celmainis, now almost 95. I had some leftover. I had read a few recipes, and though most included apple, knew right away that mine would not. I was not headed for that delectable mix of sweet and savoury. I was headed for savoury: uber ultra super duper savoury. The pork belly would be the sweet!
And then there is Vanja to consider. Those of you that read ACF regularly know he likes very basic food. And eats no cooked vegetables. Except peppers. And potatoes. I was really going to work at this recipe to get him to buy into it. Bacon should help. He needs to widen his vegetable repertoire, me thinks. Paprika would also help. He loves paprika, as do I, and the wonderful fragrant, fresh, moist batch I brought back with us from his home country this summer would be so yummy. But, I didn’t use it. I used Sweet Spanish Paprika instead as its rich smoky flavour is second to none and I thought the dish needed emboldening. (You would never find that in the traditional form of this dish.) Also, Vegeta. God help me, but he is hooked on Vegeta. Most Eastern Europeans are.
The Bay leaves are from my own tree. I love that I can have an indoor tree growing my herbs. (Yes, outdoor would be nice, but I live in the Canadian prairies!) Look at the difference in the colour of this dish after it has been braised over an hour: tasty translucent tendrils completely transformed into a different vegetable entirely!
Vanja came by, sniffed and wrinkled his nose with disapproval. “Taste it!” More disapproval. So, I tasted, and puttered and re-seasoned. “Please, taste it again, now?”
With grave hesitance, he approached the steaming pot and gingerly edged his fork under a couple of strands. “Come on, Vanja!” I pleaded, and he then pushed a decent bite onto his fork and into his mouth. Instant surprise. Instant pleasure. I was so happy. He didn’t just “like” it. He “mmm-mmm-mmm-ed” it! “Ooooo! That stuff is good! I hope you wrote down whatever you did to it!”
And, yes, as a matter of fact, I had.
The fragrance was exactly what I was hoping to acquire. Just as I remembered it. And, Vanja liked it. I was so pleased with myself.
I liked it, too. Hopefully, some of our guests from that evening will chime in with gushingly complimentary comments about how complex the flavour was and how it paired perfectly with the confit! But, if they do not, believe me. It was a tasty partner to that unctuous pork belly we carefully placed on top! (You will have to read my next post to see that!)
Valerie’s Braised Red Cabbage Recipe
Chou Rouge Braisé
(Makes 8 servings or more depending on the size of the cabbage)
- ½ pound really good bacon, cut into lardons
- 1 large onion, peeled and quartered, then sliced
- 1 head of red cabbage, quartered, then sliced
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 cloves
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- a few bay leaves
- salt and pepper (lots of freshly ground pepper)
- 1-2 tablespoons sweet Spanish Paprika
- In a large solid pot (the original French recipe says this is best done in a cast iron pot), sautéthe bacon and onion until both are translucent; add the cabbage
- Dab butter over cabbage and stir to melt; cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.
- Add the two cloves to the pot along with the red wine and broth
- Stir in the sugar, Spanish paprika, bay leaves and season with salt and pepper
- Cook covered for 1 hour 15 min on low heat, stirring occasionally; adding more broth as needed
- Aim for a good equilibrium between the sweet, salty and acidic flavours of this dish
*The Pastry Tasting Dinner did happen and I may one day post the results. If you want information, ask and I will e-mail it to you.
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I did not have to scroll or wait for the blog to load! YEAH!!! The post came right up without a problem. Whew, now I can go back to enjoying your blog posts.
The braised cabbage looks stunning. Love it, love love it.
5 Star Foodie says
Sounds like a perfect side dish! The addition of Austrian bacon must bring such wonderful flavors, and I also like the paprika here too!
I like how you coaxed your husband to try this; yes, Valerie, I believe you will make this man like all his vegetables, fixed by you, that is! This dish is wonderful. I just have some purple cabbage in my fridge ready to be used, now I need to find that awesome bacon!
Yay to Vanja liking this! Now can you come over and work your magic with eggplants so my hubby will eat them? I love them and he hates them…argh!
Sounds like a delicious recipe, Valerie. I’m glad you were able to get it to taste the way you wanted and remembered. That’s the true power of delicious food, just one taste and you never forget, just like your pavlova. We’re still on vacation, but when we get back, I really want to give it a try.
This is one of those dishes I have not attempted in so long. What I tried was delicious but didn’t give me that WOW factor. I love to experiment so will definitely be revisiting to try your version.
It had been a little while since red cabbage had sat patiently in my fridge drawer to be used up in a delicious dish such as the one you put together. Just last week, I noticed a beauty that called my name.
Valerie, I’ll try your recipe out with some tasty Italian sausage which I picked up yesterday. Buon appetito and thanks for making this interesting ;o)
I can attest to the awesomeness of this dish – it was one of the most memorable bites of the evening for me, and many times since have I thought to ask for the recipe, as I love cooked cabbage, and intend on growing red cabbage this year.
So glad you posted this. I’m most definitely making it.
I love red cabbages…sadly that my husband can’t even hear the name “cabbage”..:-(
Perhaps with this recipe I can coax my husband into eating red cabbage also 😉 Why do so many women love it and so many men hate it???
This looks delicious, Valerie. I love old school recipes for braised cabbage. They are so warming. Plus, they are extra wonderful next to a bed of mashed potatoes (smile)!
p.s. I saw some crispy pork belly on The Food Network the other night. It was tempting even this vegetarian;-)
Barbara @ Modern Comfort Food says
Congratulations on your excellent victory with Vanja, Valerie! Although I’m not a fan of raw cabbage, I do love big helpings of it cooked with onions and spices, and so you dish is immediately appealing to me. Must get me a pretty purple cabbage and try this recipe out. I wonder if adding in a bit of smoked paprika would also work well here?
This is wonderful Val – I adore the relationship you and Vanja have. And all those spices and cider – love the hint of Eastern European here 🙂
I don’t usually go out and readilly buy red cabbage – always the green but this must change.
chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors
I think it’s all the time I spent in Eastern Europe, but I can’t think of a better side for pork than a vingery cabbage dish.
I concur with both Valerie and Kevin. The braised cabbage was to die for (as was the rest of your meal). The cabbage reminded me of the cabbage my Nonna often makes. Thanks for the recipe.
Joan Nova says
I love this dish and what the yin and yang of sugar, vinegar and bacon. It goes really great as a side dish to pork.
uber ultra super duper, love that line..lol cabbage is always welcomed in our home and braising cabbage adds such great flavor but mix in austrian, apple cider and spanish paprika..oh a perfect side to pork belly…here’s hoping vanja will continue to try more veggies, glad he enjoyed this (who wouldn’t)
have a great weekend
Peter G @ Souvlaki For The Soul says
I love braised red cabbage…you nailed it here Valerie!
I love braised red cabbage, but haven’t made any yet this winter. It’s on the list now! Your version looks and sounds amazing.
You can always find frozen passion fruit (and lots of other tropical fruit) in stores that sell Mexican or South American groceries. I think one of the brands is Goya, and it’s usually imported from Colombia. It’s great for curd and smoothies, but it doesn’t usually have the seeds, which I love.
I too have a memory of amazing braised red cabbage – a restaurant in Banff that I did not think to remember the name of but that now is long gone.
This recipe sounded great when I read it and was spectacular when I made it! It came very close to satisfying that cabbage-memory. It has also converted my formerly cabbage-phobic husband.