Cabbage and Sausage Roast
(With credit to the New York Times for a lot of guidance and inspiration.)
The beauty of this dish is the complex flavors and a variety of textures that arise out of the basic simplicity of the ingredients. What this does is open up the possibilities to a number of different wines with something for everybody. We propose a number of different pairings with Locals wines based on what you enjoy.
The classic pairing for a “Choucroute” could be echoed with the flavors of the A. Toraño Sauvignon Blanc from Kick Ranch or the Peterson 3V. Alternately, the beautiful juju that comes from the mustardy reduction of caramelized onions, softened cabbage, and sausage, will be accented perfectly with the Bordelaise flavors from the Pendleton Cabernet Sauvignon or the Peterson GCS (the Carignane acid kicking it up a notch).
Never be afraid to taste outside the box when pairing wines with complex dishes – especially if the box has 12 bottles in it!
Why did it take me this long to tackle cooking cabbage? All my relatives on my mother’s side were born in Poland (as was my mother) where cabbage is a cooking staple. As part of the human exodus from Poland in WWII, they escaped through France, onto coal boat crossing the English Channel, and ended up in an enclave of Poles in London. The British eat their share of cabbage too. Poles living in England. Cabbage was inevitable. The smell of cabbage cooking is a very early memory of mine. I’ve been cooking since I was a teenager, but cabbage was never on the menu. I owe it to the New York Times for prompting me to tackle cabbage. Having tried this meal, I am now making dishes where the aroma reminds me of my grandmother’s.
The basis of the dish is simple: A firm head of red cabbage, some really good local pork sausages, Yukon potatoes, and a big sweet onion.
I have a nice deep cast iron pan with a lid that seemed just right for the task. I think La Creuset would work well too.
I wiped the bottom of the pan with a little vegetable oil and cut the Yukon’s into wedges placing them cut sides up in one half of the pan. Then I sliced “cabbage steaks” about 1/4 inch thick. I put the cabbage in the other half of the pan (a couple of layers). I sliced the onion and scattered it on top of both the potatoes and the cabbage. I decided to go with a little fennel along with sprigs of Rosemary and Thyme salt and pepper. I drizzled everything with a good dose of olive oil and step one was done. No sausages yet. I preheated the oven to 425 as suggested by the Times (but see below), heated the pan over a burner until I got a sizzle and popped it in the oven.
After about 25 minutes, I checked in on things. Everything was browning up, maybe a little too nicely, so I reduced the heat to 350. I pulled the pan out of the oven and following the Times’ guidance, I turned the cabbage but not the potatoes. Next, I cut through the sausage casings lengthwise so I could open them up. I smeared the cut sides with some strong mustard and put the sausages, mustard side down, on the top of my cabbage, potato and onion base. If your diet permits, I recommend buying a sausage with good fat content. The goal is for the fat to render as the sausage cooks to flavor the entire dish. Also, score the casing to stop the sausage from curling as it cooks. I did not, and a good portion of the sausage lifted off the other ingredients as it cooked. Before putting the pan back in the oven take a look to see if the cabbage has released some moisture into the pan. If not add a little water. What you’re looking for is a nicely browned sausage, caramelized onions, soft well-cooked cabbage, and roasted potatoes. In my case, this took about 25 minutes at 350. I never covered the pan, but covering for a little while might be a good way to balance out the browning and moisture as long as the pan is uncovered for long enough at the end to get the browning you want. The result: a full meal in a pan.
The dish was easy to construct, with little cleanup. But it was the textures and flavors that sold me and cemented my commitment to cooking with cabbage more often. The cabbage was soft and sweet with just a little char on the edges. The onions were caramelized, sweet and almost melting. The potatoes were just right nice and brown on the outside, fluffy and soft on the inside. All of this was bathed in a delicious “sauce” of cabbage, onion and pork sausage juices. It was all so good I almost forgot about the sausages. But they were roasted, with deep flavor and a tang of mustard, and they had contributed mightily to the “sauce.” Sometimes a dish comes together just like you hope. This was one of them. Any of the wines described above would be a great accompaniment.
Credit: Robert Acosta Lewis