Which came first, the chicken or the egg? – That was the first thing I thought when I decided to make this post. I’m not sure if I’m writing this to share the recipe or the share the story that always comes to my mind when I see a cabbage.
It was in the year 2001 during one of the iconic Ferrari family trips (with my folks and brother). The pseudo vintage picture right here is the proof of the early 00’s. Our family trips (as I believe most family trips) were always great adventures filled with fights, laughters and peculiar episodes. Once my mom drove into a wrong lane on a British highway that got an instant grey spot on my dad’s hair; in Scotland we slept in a real deal haunted castle, my dad peed his pants right in the middle of the Lafayette Gallery, my brother bought me some great anti rash cream in France by saying that his sister needed something for when you go poo and don’t clean yourself well… among this many stories we had this particular funny moment in Germany that I’m about to share with you.
I guess it happened in Munich, but my mom will leave a comment here telling where it was exactly that it took place. I’m not sure. Well, my father is crazy about veggies. He loves them all. From zucchinis to bell peppers, going through eggplant, kale, carrots… you name it! And, well, of course cabbage was o exception and he was dying to try some local Sauerkraut once in Germany. – If only I knew how easy it was to make it back them he would not be craving it so much – But at that time I was no expert in cooking veggies and the bare thought of the fermented cabbage could bring water to his mouth.
Allow me to make a quick pause to try to explain how language played a role here. In Brazil we call Sauerkraut “chucrute”, like the French does (choucroute). Maybe you already knew that, but I must confess that even living in France, it wasn’t up to recently that I discovered that we, in Brazil, use the French word for fermented cabbage. It makes quite a lot of sense, since “chou”, means, literally, cabbage in French. Nevertheless, I’m sure this linguistic parenthesis will also clarify to my family why our attempt to order cabbage in Germany was such a fiasco.
Well, let’s get back to the trip. I’ll try to paint a picture. Munich (or any other city that my mom will let us know). Street food market (back at a time where food markets were not that trendy). My brother, a natural born carnivore, had his mouth watering just from seeing all those sausages spreading their aroma all around. Needless to say that we had to sit and eat at that gastronomic amusement park. We grabbed four sits on those huge wood shared tables with large benches. Mom and dad promptly ordered a couple of beers. I probably ordered a coke light (or diet) – this was previous to the zero era and previous to me not caring all that much for sodas. I guess my brother went for a soda as all. He was still on his soda phase too. Beverages came quick. It was a super sunny hot summer day. The trip, that would attempt to reach 7 European countries in almost 1 month, was only beginning. We were having a blast watching all those people coming and going through the market. Junior started having a nice sausage sandwich. Plain and simple. Maybe some fries on the side. But making sure he would be able to eat, at least, one or two more sandwiches. Mom is crazy about hot dogs and rushed into a combo but she might have added some mustard to it. Mom likes mustard. I probably went and ordered something similar to my brother’s, but maybe with cheese (if that was an option). I don’t quite remember. I had to eat “local”, but I must say that if I was offered a grilled cheese I would not mind swapping. Anyhow… Finally came my father’s turn. Sausage, of course. He’s always into local gastronomy, and in Germany he had to go with sausages. Our waitress was not the most bilingual of beings, but my bro was not having too much trouble communicating with her in English. We got it! Up till the moment when my dad ordered some “chucrute”. The lady stared at as with the most bizarre look thinking ‘what the heck is chucrute’???’ And, well, back than, cabbage was not a word that belonged to my English vocabulary. But my dad saw no problem. He just looked straight into the German lady and said RE-PO-LHO! – you probably understood that repolho is the Portuguese word for cabbage (the’ lh’ in Portuguese sounds almost like the ‘ll’ in Spanish). And that was when we found out that our waitress could not speak French, but had some Spanish notions while smile in content saying “yes, POLLO”. We bursted into laughter and, luckily, while catching our breath, we could signal a “never mind” sign to the waitress to avoid having chicken being sent to our table together with the sausages stravaganzza. Needless to say that it became more than just an inside vacation joke but we always end up laughing whenever we see ourselves in a cabbage moment.
And since we’re talking about cabbage moments… when I gave the recipe for cabbage “noodles” in tomato sauce – recipe here – I talked about the most awesome capacity that cabbage has of multiplying itself. A little goes a long way, indeed, and that’s awesome, but sometimes having a suggestion to avoid having cabbage salad for a week might be quite welcome. Food Therapy to the rescue with just the most simple recipe ever.
Cabbage (as much as you want)
Salt and black pepper to taste
Let’s start by turning on the oven so it’ll be warm and ready to speed up the cooking. High oven, 400°F.
Now let’s hit the cabbage. I’m almost embarrassed to be giving this step by step, but I have some small details that I want to precise. Remove any eventual loose leaves of the cabbage and set it straight on a cutting board. With a good knife you’ll cut large slices of the cabbage (about 2 fingers thick). It’s important for them to be quite thick so they won’t fall apart. We’re making some sort of cabbage steaks. And let’s not forget that veggies are made from a quite important amount of water and, when they’re cooked, they dry a bit and shrink.
Spread the cabbage slices on a baking pan being careful not to destroy the pretty thick cabbage steaks. Yes, beauty is important. Season it with salt and black pepper ad drizzle a lit bit of olive oil on top of it – as always, I must insist on the ‘go easy on the olive oil’, less is more. You’re ready! Now all you have to do is take it to the oven for about 30 to 40 minutes (time may vary). You’re looking for a golden brown crispy result.
When you’re ready to serve is time to innovate. Truth is, any seasoning will be amazing. Rosemary, thyme, oregano. It’s all great. Every spice and herb has its own special flavour. Nevertheless, here, what I suggest is for you to sprinkle some smoked paprika on you cabbage steak. The smoky taste will make all the difference in the world for this dish. Oh! And it’s important to add the paprika after cooking the cabbage for it may bitter the dish if overcooked.
Besides, it brings such a gorgeous color to the final dish, don’t you think?