Wine-braised Red Cabbage with Apples balances sweet and sour ingredients with rich, savory touches for a complex, satisfying side dish. Recipe below.
A few days ago, I got to thinking about apples. Specifically about how they don’t do much for me. For whatever reason, they never have—especially in their raw, most apple-y state. I don’t think it’s a problem with apples themselves—it’s probably more of a character flaw on my part. Certainly in the store, they are alluring. So many varieties and colors stacked high in dazzling displays of autumnal plenty. And that satisfyingly distinctive, crisp crunch of biting into an apple promises so much. But that’s where it ends for me. Then I’m left with nothing more than a mouthful of, well, apple.
Of course, once something pops up on your radar screen, you start spotting it everywhere. Most notably, Aimee over at Under The High Chair posted a russet apple and gouda grilled cheese sandwich that looked so delicious I was ready to devour it on the spot, raw apple slices and all. I also thought that some crisp, thick bacon slices would make this sandwich even more wonderful. But then bacon is my answer for everything these days, isn’t it?
Bacon plays a role in this side dish, the latest in the ongoing semi-irregular A Little Something on the Side series. I can’t remember now how my search for a savory dish with apples took the direction of red cabbage, but when I saw a Bon Appétit recipe that included a little bacon and loads of butter, I figured I’d found what I was looking for. I had. The single slice of bacon imparts a subtle rustic quality. You may be tempted to add more, but it’s not needed and can in fact overpower the dish. And if you want to go vegetarian with this dish, you can certainly leave the bacon out—the butter provides a lovely, velvety finish that would stand well on its own. Oh. And the apple? It wasn’t half bad, even to me.
Wine-braised Red Cabbage with Apples
Makes 2 to 3 servings [see Kitchen Notes]
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
2 1/2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage [see Kitchen Notes]
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and thinly sliced [see Kitchen Notes]
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 bacon slice, chopped
1/4 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon allspice
Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add cabbage, apple, onion and bacon. Sauté until cabbage is crisp-tender, about 6 minutes.
Add wine, vinegar, bay leaf and allspice and gently stir to blend. Cover and cook until liquid evaporates and cabbage is tender, about 10 minutes. Season cabbage mixture to taste with salt and pepper. Serve.
2-1/2 cups of cabbage = 4 servings? I don’t think so. But that’s what the original recipe claimed. Let me start by saying that Marion and I are not big eaters. Dinner was one roasted chicken thigh each, a small hunk of a baguette and this cabbage. Which we devoured completely. Perhaps if we’d also had another side—mashed potatoes, for instance—and maybe a small salad to begin, the cabbage might have stretched to serve three. But not four.
Slicing the cabbage. I wanted the cabbage in elegantly thin strips. So I peeled off a couple of outer leaves to get to nice, shiny, purple-red leaves underneath and sliced the entire head in half lengthwise. Then I used a mandoline to shred it. A little more than a quarter of the entire head provided the generous 2-1/2 cups I needed. And since I had it out, I used the mandoline to slice the onion too—quick, easy and elegantly thin.
Why Granny Smith? As apples go, Granny Smiths are nice and tart, so they play well with cabbage, wine and vinegar. There’s no overpowering sweetness here.
Tampering with the original. The recipe as I found it sounded promising, but a little plain. A mere 1/2cup of apples [chopped, not sliced], 1/4 cup of onion and no bay leaf, no allspice. Instead, it called for honey [with the allspice, it wasn't needed] and grated potato, which sounded downright unappetizing. So as any self-respecting home cook does, I tampered. And I’m glad I did.
Also this week in Blue Kitchen
Car Tunes. What do you listen to when you’re driving? Let us know, at What’s on the kitchen boombox?
Eating our way through California. Some of the delicious highlights, at WTF? Random food for thought.