A rich creamy mustard sauce turns the humble Savoy cabbage into a hearty feast. Top it with little balls of sausage and serve it with parsley potatoes, and you'll smack your lips throughout this tasty German meal. (Skip to recipe.)
The calendar says SPRING but our yard still says WINTER. It feels like we're still buried in the depths of it and gardening season is a long way off. I'm getting itchy and twitchy.
I catch myself spring dreaming and garden planning. Yesterday I bought a whole bunch of seed packets and flower bulbs. Maybe that will speed up old Mother Nature and get her to blast some warmer air our way. (This morning we woke up to more snow coming down . . . sigh.) She's not doing her job. We may have to put in a complaint.
Winter is hanging on with its snowy claws. (How will the Easter Bunny ever get around to hide the eggs?)
I think we still need comfort food.
Cabbage is Comfort Food
This poor maligned vegetable is usually seen as pretty low class, but I think it's a superstar. Look at how well this brassica keeps throughout the winter, still providing brightness and nourishment after all those months in storage. Cabbage haters don't realize how sweet it gets when it's cooked. One of my favourite vegetables mom made when we were kids was boiled wedges of cabbage with butter melted on top. Really. I know it sounds so plain, but the cabbage got soft and sweet and I gobbled it down happily.
I also love cooked cabbage when it still has a bit of crunch to it. Savoy cabbage has a mild sweet flavour and a lovely loose texture which holds the sauce in all the little divots and wrinkles. In this creamy German dish the Savoy cabbage is cooked tender-crisp (hard to see in the photos), each sweet strand coated in a rich creamy sauce enlivened with the bright tang of mustard. (I know, I know. We Germans love our mustard.) It gives the same satisfaction as eating a plate of cream-sauced pasta. Easy little sausage dumplings add a salty savoury accent, with forkfuls of tender boiled potatoes as the perfect counterpoint.
Cabbage - Sausage - Potatoes. The holy trinity of German cooking. (And don't forget the beer.) When you serve those foods together you've got OOM-PA-PA on a plate. Add the rich decadence of cream and mustard and you've got the whole marching band in your kitchen!
German cooking has elements in common with French cooking in that Germans are also the masters of simple delicious sauces. In this dish, a generous helping of cream can elevate a humble dish like cabbage and sausages to another level.
I was leafing through the spring issue of an old German magazine, LiebesLand, doing my spring dreaming, and saw this recipe for a Savoy cabbage dish that made me want a plateful right now. The German recipe uses Schmand - a high fat sour cream (20-29% milkfat) not easily available here in Alberta, so I used heavy cream and upped the mustard to provide the tang of Schmand. It was a lip-smacking so-what-if-it's-still-snowing kind of dish. We devoured it.
If it's still snowing next week, I'm making it again.
All you do is get a pot of potatoes boiling, roll some sausage meat into little balls and brown it, then get your cabbage cooking. Add the cream, cook it a bit more, and serve it with a nice glass of Gewurztraminer wine or your favourite beer or cider.
The hell with winter.
* * * * *
Kitchen Frau Notes: Any type of unsmoked, uncooked sausage would work to make these little sausage balls. Savoy cabbage has a lovely sweet mild flavour and great texture, but regular cabbage would also work well for this dish, though the sauce might pool a bit more (still delicious).
*Sweet rice flour (not regular rice flour) is a great thickener because it doesn't clump when whisked. It is so easy to use. I recommend sweet rice flour for all gravies, because even if you dump it in and get a few lumps, you can whisk them out eventually, which doesn't happen with regular wheat flour. You can of course, substitute regular wheat flour if you aren't cooking gluten-free.
(adapted from the German 'Liebesland' magazine, March 2014 edition)
- 2 lbs (900gms) firm boiling potatoes (about 4 large potatoes)
- 1 lb (450gms) unsmoked Bratwurst, bulk sausage, or other uncooked sausage (like mild Italian sausage) - gluten-free if necessary
- 2 tablespoons oil
- ¼ cup (60ml) water
- 1 small head Savoy cabbage (2 lbs/900gms) or ½ of a large head
- 1 medium onion
- 1½ cups (360ml) whipping cream/heavy cream (or 1 cup cream + ½ cup milk)
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon grainy mustard (or 1 additional tablespoon Dijon mustard)
- 2 teaspoons sweet rice flour*
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
Get the potatoes started first. Peel them and cut them into chunks, then half cover them with water, sprinkle with salt, and boil (covered) for about 15 minutes, or until tender when poked with a fork. Drain the potatoes when done, and keep them covered to stay warm until the cabbage is ready to serve.
Next prepare the sausage dumplings. Slit the casing on the sausages lengthwise. Peel off the casing and discard it. Roll the sausage meat into small balls, about 1 inch (2.5cm) in diameter. In a skillet, brown the balls over medium heat, rotating them to cook all sides. Add a drizzle of oil or water if the skillet gets too dry. When they are done, turn the heat as low as it will go and cover the skillet, keeping the sausage dumplings warm.
Once you have the sausage dumplings cooking, prepare the cabbage. Cut the head of Savoy cabbage into quarters, cut out the core, and slice each quarter crosswise into half-inch thick (1cm) slices. Cut the onion in half and slice crosswise.
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the sliced cabbage, onion, and water. Cook and stir until the cabbage is mostly wilted and there are only some pieces that are still opaque and raw, about 5 minutes. In a bowl, whisk together the cream, mustard, and sweet rice flour. Pour this mixture into the cabbage and stir to coat everything. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the cabbage, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the salt and pepper, toss together. Arrange the sausage dumplings on top of the braised cabbage.
Add the butter and parsley to the potatoes and toss to coat them evenly.
Serve the cabbage and sausage dish with the potatoes on the side.
A plate of fresh sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, salt, and pepper makes a nice accompaniment.
Serves 4 to 5.
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