As the frigid winter months trail off and taunt us poor, northeastern souls with three days of nearly 60 degree weather, many of us find that despite our lighter coats, our refrigerators continue to crumble under the weight of winter produce. My spirits have been much higher this winter than last, as I finally figured out the secret to making it work (culinarily speaking). I'd originally balked at winter's arrival, having barely made it through the last one with any shred of enthusiasm. But this year I discovered what chefs have known for years—the trick that keeps their menus afloat when it should otherwise drown in a sea of roots and Seasonal Affective Disorder. It turns out that even the least delicious of winters is surmountable by mastering the simple act of roasting. It seems so easy a solution when I look back at it now, like I've been thinking so long and hard about the individual ingredients that I've missed the bigger picture. Sometimes a variation on one technique is all you need to make it work.
I'd long ago hit a wall when confronted with cabbage and thought for sure the two enormous ones I'd received during my last CSA distribution would be the straw that broke this camel's back. There was nothing left to do with them. I'd sauteed and braised, stuffed and dressed. There were slaws and stir-fry's aplenty, not to mention soups and stews. It seems I'd done all that my stove-top permitted, except for, of course, lowering my head and seeing what was lurking below. But one day while pondering what had suddenly made everyone love brussels sprouts and other formerly detested vegetables, I got to thinking: people love them because they're roasted. Roasting diffuses that fetid odor associated with the overcooked sprouts of many childhoods, while also rendering them crunchy and almost entirely maintenance free. You just coat them lightly in olive oil and toss them in a hot oven. What are brussels sprouts, after all, but teeny, tiny cabbages? Couldn't I just apply the same technique with a few adjustments?
Of course I could! The question was really how to down-size the cabbage in order to not roast it in one big sphere. I decided to try halving the cabbage, removing the core, and then slicing down on the cabbage halves to create wide strips (about 1 inch wide). The rest went just like roasting any old veggie. I tossed all the strips in extra virgin olive oil and lightly salted them before spreading the strips out on an aluminum foil lined sheet pan (easy clean-up!). I popped the tray into a nice hot oven (400 degrees) and 20 minutes later I had roasted cabbage. The edges closest to the core were soft and buttery while the outer edges crisped and charred, adding a wonderful crunch. It reminded me of the kale chips I'd made so many times this year, where the stems softened and the outer bits crisped and browned. I knew immediately that the cabbage would make a great side for a meat dish, so I served it alongside an Argentinean-style steak topped with a spicy chimichuri (but it'd be even better alongside a pork roast or even some chops). And so, as I wait patiently for the bounty of spring and summer I leave you with this one winter blues remedy. Cabbage is super cheap, especially when you consider how much of it you get. One head makes a ton of food, so if you're trying to find a way to eat seasonal and/or local, give this roasted cabbage a shot. It'd make a great and healthy side to some sausage or even a hot dog night. The next time, I think I'll do what I do with brussels sprouts and add a pinch of red pepper flake and vinegar for some heat!
1 medium head of cabbage (green or red)
extra virgin olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Halve and core the cabbage. Place cabbage cut-side down and cut into 1-inch strips.
2. Toss cabbage lightly with extra virgin olive oil and spread out on an aluminum foil covered baking sheet (you may need to roast on two sheets to avoid crowding the pan). Roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until browned and crispy. Enjoy!