When I set out to recreate the pretzel dumplings and braised red cabbage from a recent episode of Top Chef, it was the dumplings I was most excited about.  And they were very, very good, but the cabbage stole the show.  If you like red cabbage as much as I do, this recipe will be a revelation.  I usually braise it simply, in its own juices, with some chopped onion and apple and a splash of cider vinegar.  Generally, I’m skeptical of recipes with long lists of ingredients — especially when it comes to vegetables, where I think less is definitely more — but in this recipe, the combination of sweet and tart fruit, earthy wine and herbs, and warm, penetrating spice really makes the humble cabbage sing.

I made a few changes to the original recipe, replacing the port wine and apple juice with apple cider, using red currant jam instead of lingonberry, and omitting the duck fat and cornstarch, finishing the cabbage with a bit of butter instead.

The cabbage and pretzel dumplings were such a perfect pair that the pork tenderloin I made to accompany them was utterly superfluous.  The next time I make this — and I’m already planning the next time — I’ll skip the meat and serve it as a vegetarian dish.

Braised Red Cabbage

Adapted from Stefan’s recipe

Yield: Makes about 10 cups

2 onions, chopped

2 tbsp. canola oil or butter

1 large head red cabbage (about 3 lbs.), tough outer leaves removed, quartered, cored, and sliced crosswise about 1/3″ thick

4 apples, peeled, cored, and grated

12 oz. lingonberry or red currant jam

2 c. red wine (ideally something light, fruity, and dry)

3 c. apple cider

2-3 tbsp. granulated sugar (start with 2 and add more to taste)

2 bay leaves

2 cinnamon sticks

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/4 c. butter

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a dutch oven over medium heat, warm 2 tbsp. oil or butter.  Add onions and cook until soft, about 8 minutes.  Add cabbage, apples, jam, wine, cider, 2 tbsp. sugar, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, and cloves.  Raise heat and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for two hours.  Remove from heat, stir in 1/4 c. butter, season with salt and pepper and additional sugar, if desired.

Note: 10 cups of cooked cabbage is a lot of cabbage!  Invite some friends to help you eat it or have it for lunch, as I have this week, with some rye crackers and gouda cheese.

Make it dairy-free: Earth Balance Buttery Sticks make a fine substitute for butter in this recipe.