Thursday, February 19, 2009

Creamy Red Cabbage with Fennel and Mustard Seed

The other day I had some pork chops to prepare for dinner and I was bored by any of my usual recipes. So I pulled one of my favorite cookbooks, Molly Stevens' All About Braising, down off the shelf and immersed myself in the pork section. I found a recipe for pork chops with creamy cabbage, which was handy as I had half a head of red cabbage in the fridge, (the recipe calls for green cabbage). Wait I hear you crying, there is no mention of pork in the title of this post! Well, while I did find this recipe because I had pork chops, in the end the chops were not the star, and for this braise not essential. In most braises that include meat, there is a mingling of flavors from the meat and the vegetables, seasonings and liquid. Doing without any one element would defeat the whole purpose of the original braise and leave you with boring food. In this braise though the pork added little if anything to the cabbage.

The cabbage however was delicious, creamy as the name implies and subtly flavored. The flavors would have been more aggressive if I went with the spicing Molly used. The original calls for caraway seed and yellow mustard seed. However I was not in the mood for the caraway cabbage combination that is so common. I love the flavor of the pork loin braised in milk from the same book, that uses fennel seed. Fennel seed does not add a strong licorice flavor here, so please try this even if you don't like licorice. In fact the fennel here is even more subtle than it is in sweet italian sausage.

This recipe is a great discovery for me as we have a winter CSA, (Community Supported Agriculture) at the Intervale Community Farm that unmercilessly gifts us with a head of cabbage every other week. Slowly I am learning how to prepare the cabbage so we actually want to eat it, the 2 butternut squashes every other week are still a challenge. So in the future I will be making this without the pork chops as a side dish. I have included the chops in the recipe because they were tasty, just not amazing, and there is a lot to be said for one pot meals. I am thinking in the future I will also try this with my hand formed lamb sausages in place of the pork.

Creamy Red Cabbage with Fennel and Mustard Seed
With or Without Pork

4 1 inch thick pork chops (try to buy pork that has not been enhanced with water and chemicals)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup flour
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 large shallot
2 cloves of garlic, germ removed if any, smashed
1/2 head small red cabbage (about 1 pound), cored and thinly shredded
1/2 cup riesling wine, or your favorite white wine, not too dry
2/3 cup water
1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
1 small chicken bouillon cube crushed (or use a veggie cube if you are making this for vegetarians, leave out the pork too)
1/4 cup half and half

Make sure the pork chops are dry and season on both sides with salt and pepper and then dredge in the flour on both sides. Heat the oil in a shallow 10 - 12 inch braising pan (I used my 12 inch Le Creuset deep saute pan) over medium high heat. When the oil is hot tap the excess flour from each chop and place as many as will fit without touching. Cook without moving them about 4 minutes until browned, turn and cook on the second side until well browned, 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a large plate, pour of any remaining oil and wipe out any flour from the pan.

(Start here if you are making the cabbage without the pork) Melt the butter over medium heat and add the fennel and mustard seed, Cook stirring with a silicone spatula until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Add the shallot and sauté until the shallot has softened, approximately 2 minutes. Add the cabbage and smashed garlic cloves and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium low. Cook the cabbage, stirring often until it is wilted.

Add the wine and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the water, vinegar, and bouillon cube and stir to dissolve the bouillon cube and blend the flavors. Bring to a gentle simmer and then lay the pork chops on top of the cabbage (if using pork). Cover tightly and reduce heat to low and simmer gently. Check after a few minutes that the liquid is simmering very slowly, if not reduce the heat or use a heat diffuser. Turn the chops after 10 minutes and braise until the chops register 150° on a meat thermometer. this should take about 20 minutes, if omitting pork, braise for 20 minutes.

Transfer the pork chops to a serving dish and increase the heat to medium high to bring the liquid to a boil. Stir in the half and half and boil gently to thicken the liquid. Taste for salt and pepper and serve, spooning cabbage over the chops if serving chops.

Note: Since posting this I have made the cabbage without the pork chops. My husband said it was better without the pork. Although in all honesty i have to say I changed it slightly because i did not have any riesling on hand. I used water with a splash of cream sherry for the riesling.


  1. It is too bad that you posted this after I used up my CSA cabbages. Though I wonder if I went digging through the crisper if I might find a few more. I tried to do a pot sticker recipe that I found in cooks illustrated archives but I ended up giving up and cooking the filling as a dish by itself.

    How do you feel about all the different types of vinegar? Is it important to use sherry vinegar or would apple cider or another wine vinegar do the trick?

    What would you serve the cabbage with if you didn't serve meat?

  2. The original recipe called for cider vinegar. I would use cider vinegar, especially unpasturized apple cider vinegar or champagne vinegar. Wine vinegar would be too sharp and balsamic vinegar is too sweet and strong.

    If you don't have sherry vinegar though I recommend buying a bottle. Sherry vinegar is my favorite vinegar in most recipes. When we are out i replace it promptly.

    As for dishes to go with the cabbage, I would serve it with black bean burgers and mashed potatoes as one option. However I think it would go great with a recipe I just saw in the latest issue of Gourmet for tofu.


  3. I realize this may be a bit late, but this recipe from epicurious is a fabulous way to use up a butternut squash: Tart-15748

    Pastry crust is a bit pokey, but the results... I've been thinking of it fondly for months!

  4. jacqueline, It is not too late at all, I still have 3 butternut squash in the basement waiting for me to use them. I did have plans to just roast and puree them and freeze the results, but I may try this recipe instead. It looks really good. And there is always next winter and its parade of squash.

    Thank You!!

  5. I wish someone would give me butternut squashes on a regular basis! I use squash, boiled to within an inch of its life and pureed, as a thickener for stews. It always gives my thick soups and stews a great flavor.