We have cabbage and kielbasa at least once a month during the winter. It’s always been green cabbage, though, and it was time to branch out. I was remembering a dinner with C. years ago, one sub-zero night in St. Paul when we drove through the snow to Muffaletta*. I had boar sausage, braised red cabbage, and sweet potato mash, and if memory serves, we split escargot and roasted brussells sprouts as appetizers. I was hell-bent on recreating the main course, but there was no boar sausage to be found in my usual haunts here in Syracuse. Not at Wegman’s, where I’ve found it before, or at the vaunted Liehs and Steigerwald. But the latter did sell me a wonderfully peppery Black Forest sausage, and that’s what we had alongside this cabbage, which is based on a 2005 recipe from Bon Appetit that I tweaked a bit. The addition of caraway and broth makes for a wonderful, dusky hit of imagined midwinter smells: a clean, ancient church, all old wooden pews, swept dirt floor, and the last rays of cold light.
1/2 stick of butter (Use more or less in proportion to the cabbage. The original recipe calls for a 2lb cabbage.)
A head of red cabbage appropriate to the number of people you’d like to feed
1/2 teaspoon (or more) sea salt
3 tablespoons dry red wine
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
Beef broth as needed to keep things from drying out
Melt butter in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add sliced cabbage, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and caraway seeds; stir and toss constantly until cabbage begins to wilt, about 7 minutes. Add red wine and saute until liquid evaporates, about 10 minutes. Add red wine vinegar; stir constantly until cabbage is tender and turns bright fuschia in color, about 13 minutes longer. (Mine became a bit too dry during this stage, which is when I started adding glugs of beef broth.) When it’s as tender as you’d like it to be, season to taste with pepper and more salt if desired.
*One indication that you’re a southerner abroad in the far north: a restaurant named after street food in your old haunts is a restaurant that accepts reservations.