When most people think about braising, they think about meat. Tender, falling off the bone meat, like short ribs braised in a deep, dark porter or a leg of lamb braised in apricot brandy with cardamom and ginger. It's true, there are many delicious braised meat dinners, and you will find them all in All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking. What is surprising about All About Braising, is how many intriguing vegetable dishes the James Beard winning cookbook includes. Flipping through the pages I marked several I would like to try, including escarole braised with cannellini beans, potato and leek braise, braised endive with fried eggs, or creamy braised brussels sprouts. I decided to start with something simple: The World's Best Braised Green Cabbage.
Braising is uncomplicated cooking at its best: Put ingredients in a dutch oven (or similar pan), cover, and place in oven for a really, really long time. I was happy with how this dish turned out and recommend All About Braising based on the success of this dish and Molly's writing style; it has personality, something you don't always find in a cookbook.
Braising the cabbage transformed it from tough to tender and sweet; it would make a hearty side dish or a filling meatless meal, and it tasted even better the next day for lunch.
World's Best Braised Green Cabbage
Adapted from All About Braising by Molly Stevens
1 medium green cabbage (about 2 pounds)
1 large yellow onion
1 large carrot
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly oil a large gratin dish or 9-inch baking dish. (I used my Dutch Oven).
2. Trimming the cabbage: Peel off and discard any bruised or ragged outer leaves from the cabbage. The cabbage should weigh close to 2 pounds (if you don't have a kitchen scale, consult the grocery store receipt). If the cabbage weighs more than 2 pounds, it won't fit in the baking dish and won't braise as beautifully. To remedy this, cut away a wedge of the cabbage to trim it down to size. Save the leftover wedge for salad or coleslaw. Then cut the cabbage into 8 wedges. Arrange the wedges in the baking dish; they may overlap some, but do your best to create a single layer.
3. The braise: Scatter in the onion and carrot. Drizzle the oil and stock over the vegetables. Season with salt, pepper, and pepper flakes. Cover tightly with foil, and slide into the middle of the oven to braise until the vegetables are completely tender, about 2 hours. Turn the cabbage wedges with tongs after an hour. Don't worry if the wedges want to fall apart as you turn them; just do your best to keep them intact. If the dish is drying out at all, add a few tablespoons of water.
4. The finish: Once the cabbage is completely tender, remove the foil, increase the oven heat to 400, and roast until the vegetables begin to brown, another 15 minutes or so. Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with fleur de sel or other coarse salt (I used kosher).