When Cynthia Brown's husband was in high school, he was tended and loved by a gregarious Russian family. The matriarch, Mrs. Stepanoff, made sure he dressed appropriately for the season and ate nourishing food. When Brown married into the "family," Mrs. Stepanoff shared some of her recipes, her passion for serving fresh ingredients and her belief that you should always make enough for "one more" at the dinner table. This cabbage dish satisfies all three criteria.
Serve with pierogies, lumpy mashed garlic potatoes, egg noodles or pumpernickel bread. Pass a bowl of sour cream at the table and, if desired, salute Mrs. Stepanoff with a shot of vodka.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound fresh kelbasa, cut into bite-size pieces
- 1 large onion, cut in half then cut into thin half-moon slices
- 2 ribs celery, chopped (1 cup)
- 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Granny Smith apples, cored, cut in half and then cut into thin slices
- 2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 2-pound head of cabbage, outer leaves removed, cored then cut into thin slices (8 cups)
- 1 or 2 medium tomatoes, cut into small dice (at this time of year, use vine-ripened tomatoes)
- 1/2 cup beer, preferably a dark stout
- Leaves from 3 or 4 stems flat-leaf parsley, chopped (3 tablespoons)
- Sour cream, for serving
Line a large bowl with a few layers of paper towels.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of the oil and the kielbasa pieces. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, to brown the kielbasa evenly, then use a slotted spoon to transfer it to the lined bowl, leaving the drippings in the skillet.
Reduce the heat to medium. Add a little more of the oil (as needed) so the bottom of the skillet is coated. Add the onion, celery and garlic; cook for about 2 minutes, stirring, until the onions just begin to soften.
Add the apples, stirring to combine, then add the paprika, caraway seeds, celery seeds, salt and the black pepper to taste. Cook for 1 minute, stirring to mix well. Discard the paper towels from the bowl of cooked and drained kielbasa bits, then combine the kielbasa and onion mixture in that bowl.
Increase the heat to medium-high. Add the sliced cabbage to the skillet in batches, so it will brown lightly instead of steam in its own juices. As you work, add just enough of the oil before each batch to cover the bottom of the skillet. Cook each batch for 3 or 4 minutes, until wilted and lightly browned, then use tongs to transfer to the bowl with the kielbasa-onion mixture.
When all the cabbage has been cooked, return the cabbage-kielbasa mixture to the skillet over medium heat, then add the chopped tomatoes and beer. Once the mixture begins to bubble at the edges, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, so all the juices and flavors meld and all the ingredients are warmed. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Add the chopped parsley and toss lightly. Serve hot, with sour cream passed at the table.
Adapted by Cynthia A. Brown, assistant director at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria.
Tested by Cynthia A. Brown.
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