Episode 40 – “Head Games”

Posted: May 6, 2015 in Season 3
Tags: , , , ,

Shred, Head, Butter and Bread

Cabbage is not a vegetable we eat often in our house, aside from the occasional slaw to accompany fish tacos or the like. I was curious to see what we would think of Alton’s cabbage preparations in the 40th Good Eats episode. Alton says that the first recipe in this episode originated from his mother.

Ingredients:  butter, seasoned croutons, dry mustard, caraway seed, green cabbage, Kosher salt, and sugar.

Ingredients: butter, seasoned croutons, dry mustard, caraway seed, green cabbage, Kosher salt, and sugar.

5-6-2015 074 To make Alton’s mom’s cabbage, fill your biggest pot 3/4 full with water and bring to a boil over high heat.

Big pot of water over high heat.

Big pot of water over high heat.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt 1/2 a stick of butter and add 1/2 C pulverized seasoned croutons.

Half a stick of butter in a large skillet.

Half a stick of butter in a large skillet.

Melted butter.

Melted butter.

Pulverized seasoned croutons.

Pulverized seasoned croutons.

Pulverized croutons added to butter.

Pulverized croutons added to butter.

To this crouton mixture, add two big pinches of dry mustard and 1 t caraway seeds.

Dry mustard and caraway seed added to butter/crouton mix.

Dry mustard and caraway seed added to butter/crouton mix.

Continue to cook this mixture, stirring over medium heat until the butter browns and you have a nutty aroma. When you have reached this point, take the pan off the heat, but leave the mixture in the pan for later.

Stirred until browned and nutty.

Stirred until browned and nutty.

Next, you want to shred a small head of green cabbage. Alton explains that he prefers small heads of cabbage because they are sweeter. To shred your cabbage, cut the head into quarters and cut the hard white core out of each quarter. Lay the cabbage quarters on your cutting board (curved side out), and slice perpendicularly to the board. If this is tough to visualize, there are lots of videos online.

Whole head of green cabbage.

Whole head of green cabbage.

Cabbage cut into halves.

Cabbage cut into halves.

Cabbage cut into quarters.

Cabbage cut into quarters.

Shredded cabbage.

Shredded cabbage.

When your cabbage is shredded, add 1 T Kosher salt and 1 T sugar to your pot of boiling water.

1 T Kosher salt added to boiling water.

1 T Kosher salt added to boiling water.

1 T sugar added to water.

1 T sugar added to water.

Why cook your cabbage in a lot of sugared/salted water? The large volume of water dilutes acid that seeps from the cabbage. The sugar preserves the cabbage’s cellular structure, while the salt increases the boiling point of the water to promote faster cooking. Add the shredded cabbage to the boiling water. You will notice an immediate color change in the cabbage, as it becomes a more brilliant shade of green; this is because the cabbage is releasing gas as it cooks, allowing the true color of the chlorophyll to show.

Cabbage added to water for 2 minutes.

Cabbage added to water for 2 minutes.

Cook the cabbage for a scant two minutes and drain. Alton used a salad spinner to drain his cabbage, but a colander works fine too.

Cabbage drained after cooking for 2 minutes.

Cabbage drained after cooking for 2 minutes.

Add the cabbage to the butter/crumb mixture in the skillet and toss to coat with tongs.

Cabbage added to skillet with butter/crouton mixture.

Cabbage added to skillet with butter/crouton mixture.

Final cabbage.

Final cabbage.

We ate this cabbage as a side dish and we both really liked it. The cabbage maintained a nice texture and color, avoiding looking like a “wet Army Jeep,” as Alton described. The caraway seed’s flavor came through, but was not overpowering, and the overall dish had a buttery, slightly sweet flavor. We both agreed that we would make this again as a vegetable side dish.

Home of the Braise

Alton’s second cabbage preparation uses red, rather than green, cabbage. This recipe involves braising the cabbage in acidic liquid, which the purple pigments (anthocyanins) in red cabbage love.

Ingredients for braised cabbage:  canola oil, Granny Smith apple, apple juice, caraway seed, Kosher salt, black pepper, red cabbage, lemon juice, and butter.

Ingredients for braised cabbage: canola oil, Granny Smith apple, apple juice, caraway seed, Kosher salt, black pepper, red cabbage, lemon juice, and butter.

To make this cabbage, heat a large skillet over medium heat, adding 2 T canola oil to coat the pan.

2 T canola oil heating in a pan.

2 T canola oil heating in a pan.

Add 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cubed, and toss.

Granny Smith apple added to the pan.

Granny Smith apple added to the pan.

Once the apple is lightly browned, add 1 pint of apple juice, preferably unfiltered. The acid from the apple and apple juice serves to keep the final cabbage red, rather than blue.

A pint of apple juice added to the apple.

A pint of apple juice added to the apple.

Increase the heat and add 1/4 t caraway seed, 1 1/2 t Kosher salt, several grinds of black pepper, and 1/2 a head of shredded red cabbage.

Caraway seed, Kosher salt, and black pepper added to the apple mixture.

Caraway seed, Kosher salt, and black pepper added to the apple mixture.

Cabbage halved, and ready to be shredded.

Cabbage halved, and ready to be shredded.

Shredded red cabbage.

Shredded red cabbage.

Shredded cabbage added to the pan.

Shredded cabbage added to the pan.

Put the lid on the pan, shake the pan to get everything coated, decrease the heat to low, and cook for 20 minutes.

Lid on the pan, heat turned to low, and left to cook for 20 minutes.

Lid on the pan, heat turned to low, and left to cook for 20 minutes.

To boost the pigment of the final dish, sprinkle lemon juice over the cabbage just before serving.

Lemon juice added to boost pigment.

Lemon juice added to boost pigment.

Alton also likes to add a pat of butter to cut the acid from the lemon.

A pat of butter melted into the cabbage.

A pat of butter melted into the cabbage.

The finished cabbage.

The finished cabbage.

5-6-2015 135

Why is caraway seed so often paired with cabbage? Aside from pairing well flavor-wise, caraway seed helps to limit cabbage’s production of hydrogen sulfide gas, which is what can make your house smell like cabbage for days. We ate this cabbage as a side dish last night and we liked it even better than the first cabbage recipe. While the first recipe was sweet, buttery, and mild, this dish was much more tangy and bold. Again, Alton showed that cooking cabbage properly can maintain the texture, flavor, and color of a vegetable that so often gets a bad rap. You cannot go wrong with either of Alton’s cabbage recipes.

Comments
  1. Syl says:

    I decided to make this tonight, served it with Polish Kielbasa. I loved this! Only thing I would do would be to reduce some of the apple juice so it would not be so watery. Might try it with apple cider next time!

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