Humble cabbage becomes something special when cooked with a bit of butter or oil until just tender.
Cabbage is often hidden. Cooked to death in a soup or drowned in sauce or slathered with dressing. Here, this humble head of compact leaves is allowed to be itself, gently cooked with a bit of butter until just tender. Simple, easy, and utterly satisfying. Divine with a few lamb chops or a shepherd’s pie or a seared steak or a rotisserie chicken. Or, keep things traditional and offer a few sausages and potatoes alongside. Find inspiration for endless variations at the end of the recipe—this simple technique easily morphs into a whole range of different flavors. Best of all, this gentle but not-too-long cooking method keeps the cabbage from getting stinky.
- 1 small head savoy cabbage or green cabbage
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Remove and discard any bruised or wilted leaves on the outside of the cabbage. Cut it into quarters and cut out the core from each (or cut out the core and then quarter). Discard the core or slice it very thinly and cook it with the cabbage.
- Melt the butter in a wide sauté or braising pan over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted, add the cabbage and sprinkle in the salt. Stir to coat the cabbage evenly with the butter, pour in 1/4 cup of water, cover, and reduce the heat to low-medium. Cook undisturbed for 5 minutes, stir, cover again, and cook for 5 more minutes, adjusting the heat to keep the liquid steaming but the cabbage not browning or sticking too much. Add 1 tablespoon or so of water if the cabbage starts to stick to the pan. Cook until the cabbage is tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes total. Serve hot or warm.
Mix up the liquid. Use chicken stock or dry white wine instead of the water as braising liquid to add extra flavor. If you use stock, you may need extra to avoid having the cabbage stick to the pan.
Make it cheesy. Grate some aged gouda or parmesan or aged gruyère over the cabbage as soon as you take it off the heat so it melts onto and sort of into the cabbage bits to delicious effect.
Warm spices. Add 1/2 teaspoon garam masala to the butter before adding the cabbage, cook, stirring, until it’s super fragrant, about 1 minute. Then add the cabbage and cook according to the rest of the recipe. Season with a shake or two of garam masala before serving.
North African kick. Add 1 teaspoon ras el hanout to the butter before adding the cabbage. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Then add 1/3 cup water to the pan, bring to a boil, and cook until the liquid is reduced by a third. Stir in the cabbage and braise as per the rest of the recipe.
Sichuan-style. Before you add the butter, toast 1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppers in the pan until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and crush. Add oil instead of butter to the pan, add the toasted and crushed peppercorns to the pan along with 1-2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced. Cook, stirring, until the garlic barely starts to turn golden, about 2 minutes, then add the cabbage and cook as directed in the rest of the recipe. Drizzle with hot chili oil to taste before serving.