Cabbage is a vegetable that puts up with a lot. You can project onto it. You can say, “You’re a sweet and crunchy, refreshing condiment,” and it says, “That’s me!” Or you can say, “You are a spicy, funky, perfect example of what lactic fermentation is good for,” and it says, “Exactly.” Or you can appreciate it for being a nuanced, velvety decadence, say to it, “Gosh, you’re an classy brassica,” and it responds, “I’m yours.” Maybe cabbage is a little too tolerating.
[Quick interruption: There’s still time to preorder Bowl—which was recently picked as one of the most exciting new spring cookbooks by Epicurious!—and win a set of excellent, handmade Jono Pandolfi bowls.]
As a classy brassica, cabbage is one of those vegetables that responds well to near-overcooking. Braised cabbage is just delicious. It turns silky and sweet, and is so good topped with lots of black pepper and flaky finishing salt. The Molly Steven’s recipe is one that I return to periodically, especially in the winter when it’s slim pickings at the farmer’s market. I’ve adapted that recipe a bit here, giving it some gingery, garlicky fragrance and extra richness in the form of coconut milk.
Heap it into a serving dish and serve as a centerpiece or as a side. Or, lately I’m packing it up for lunch, cramming it into a tupperware with brown rice, other roasted vegetables, a little pile of pickled shallots, and some cilantro or other herbs; that’s what’s going on in the photo above. But with farro or barley, a fried egg, and a bit of chili sauce—or better yet, chili sauce mixed with plain yogurt—you can’t go wrong. Braised cabbage has the chops to play the lead, but is just as happy in the supporting role. So easy-going, so generous.
Ginger & Coconut Braised Cabbage
Use the room-temperature (firm) coconut oil in place of the butter to make this a vegan dish.
Serves 4 to 6
3 tablespoons butter or coconut oil, divided, plus extra for greasing
1 small-to-medium-sized green cabbage (about 1-1/2 to 2 pounds), cut into 12 wedges through the stem
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 heaping tablespoons ginger matchsticks (or grated ginger)
1 heaping tablespoons sliced garlic
3/4 cup well-stirred coconut milk
1/4 cup water
Freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375° F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with butter or oil, then arrange the cabbage wedges in it, in a compact single layer.
Heat the 1 tablespoon butter and the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant and the garlic is softened slightly, about 3 minutes. Add the coconut milk and water and bring to a simmer. Pour this mixture evenly over the cabbage. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper, then dot with flecks of the remaining 2 tablespoons butter or firm coconut oil. Seal the pan tightly with foil.
Transfer to the oven and cook for 45 minutes. Carefully uncover and, using tongs, flip the cabbage wedges over. Add a splash of water if the pan appears too dry. Reseal with the foil and return to the oven. Cook for 45 minutes more, until completely tender. Increase the temperature to 425° F. Remove the foil and move the pan to the top shelf, nearest the heat source. Cook for 10 minutes more, until browned in spots.
Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with pepper, flaky salt, and optional lemon wedges on the side.