Sunday, January 07, 2007

Braised Red Cabbage and Spatzle

What we have here is a real treat, true comfort food. These two dishes separate are good, but together are fantastic. If you do the shopping right the whole thing would probably cost under $10 for a couple days worth of wholesome goodness. At the restaurant we serve this with a seared boneless half chicken. The best part is the process. For an hours worth of work, the house fills with a wonderful scent of cabbage. You get a nice warmth from boiling the spatzle, and when it’s over, the results are immediately irresistible.

Braised Red Cabbage

3-4 # red Cabbage, cut into 1/4 inch wide strips
1 red onion, and 1 apple are optional
1# bacon
½ cup each honey, red wine vinegar
1 tsp each cinnamon coriander, anise seeds
½ tsp clove

It seems like a lot of cabbage, but your likely to discard some rough outer leaves, and the core we do not use. I like to use a fair amount of bacon, one pound is a minimum. At the restaurant I like to grind the bacon, but that seems too much for a home project. I would julienne the bacon if I bought it already sliced. In a oven ready pan lay out the cabbage, sprinkle over the spices, top with the bacon, and pour the honey and vinegar over everything. Cover this with foil, and bake at 350 for an hour. After an hour you should have tender cabbage, rendered bacon, and a fair amount of liquid at the bottom of the pan. At this point I like to stir everything up, remove the foil, and let the dish cook another 10 minutes or so to concentrate the syrup at the bottom.


2# flour, about 1 quart
2 large tablespoons smooth Dijon mustard
3 whole eggs
3 egg yolks
2 cups whole milk, or buttermilk

First thing to do is get a pot of water on to boil, make sure to add lots of salt to the water. You also need an ice bath, so empty out your ice cube trays and start more. The easiest way I find to mix this batter is to put all the flour in a big bowl, pick a bowl a little bigger that you might think. Build a little well in the middle of the flour and put the eggs and mustard there with ½ the liquid and gently stir this up as to break the eggs and slowly incorporate more flour. Once this little mini mixture seems thoroughly incorporated, mix in all the liquid and almost all the flour. I find it easier to adjust the consistency by adding flour to make it thicker if need be. The final batter should be quite thick, a lot thicker than a pancake batter, but only slightly thinner than a freshly combined bread batter. You should find it tedious, almost difficult to stir, then it is thick enough. When the batter is nice and tight, and thick, you get nice large spatzle. If the batter is too thin you end up with little droplet like spatzle.

The spatzle batter needs to be pressed through something with holes directly into the boiling water. The first thing I would look for at home would be a colander. Using a spatula, a spoon, or even your hand, put about a cup of batter at a time into the colander, and press down pushing the batter through the holes. By pushing down, you encourage long, thick spatzle to drop. If you push the batter over the holes in a scraping motion, you get smaller spatzle. The dumplings need to cook for about 3 minutes, then go into the ice bath. They need to be cooled before further cooking otherwise they tend to melt away.

Once all the batter has been cooked and cooled, drain off and dry the spatzle. The spatzle should be getting done right about the hour mark for the cabbage, so while the foil comes off the cabbage we need to get a large Sauteed pan on medium high heat going, with a nice wad of butter. As soon as the butter melts, add some spatzle, a nice thick crowded layer is ok. The spatzle should begin to brown up on the outside producing a quality crunchiness surrounding a soft, moist center. When the spatzle are browned up nicely, I like to add some chopped up parsley and thyme, and maybe some more butter if things seem a little too dry. The spatzle should have a crunch, but they shouldn’t tink the pan like a popcorn kernel would, that would be too dry. At his point, the cabbage is done, and hot, the spatzle are ready, and upon mixing the two together, well you will see for yourself what happens next.

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