Today’s corn started with cabbage. Red cabbage, to be precise. I don’t often buy red cabbage because I don’t find it very versatile, which is troublesome for my typically improvisational style of home cooking. It’s harder, bolder, and angrier than white or green cabbage. It doesn’t always play well with others. Sure, it’s great in a slaw, but it isn’t one of those vegetables will make itself at home in any dish you introduce it to. Carrots are that kind of vegetable. Carrots are friendly. Easy-going. Nice.
So what to do with the red cabbage? My wife bought it but didn’t have any specific plans for it. I rifled through my mental recipe box and decided on braising it in a manner similar to how John Campbell taught me to do it, way back when I was filming MasterChef. The long braise almost turns it into a sort of cabbage jam, but still with plenty of texture. It’s fantastic, and it looks great, too – a deep, royal, shiny purple (but still not as purple as purple sweet potatoes). As Chef John had, I chose venison to accompany the cabbage.
First, I made a simple dashi out of kombu and dried porcini. I then browned some onions, grated apple, and garlic in olive oil along with a pinch of dried thyme, then deglazed the pan with glassful of red wine. I then added my shredded cabbage along with a handful of homemade sauerkraut and julienned kombu (from making dashi) for bonus umami. I topped it up with my porcini infusion, Shaoxing wine, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and a little water. I brought it to the boil, turned the heat down, and let it bubble away for about an hour and a half.
In the final third of that time, I prepared another side: spelt, simply boiled until tender, then finished with a splash of pink Lillet and mixed with a can of corn, bits of crispy bacon, and a little bit of butter. While that was cooking, I seared my venison (really excellent stuff, from The Butchery down the road) and then finished it in the oven, to a nice medium-rare on the thinner end, rare on the other.
The venison was sweet, tender, and beefy, with a ripe, gamey flavor near the bone and in the fat. It was delicious, and it paired perfectly with the tangy, sweet, savory cabbage. The corny spelt thing was too sweet on its own, but it also matched nicely with the venison, and when I had a bite of all three elements together, the dish became more than the sum of its parts, like a good burger or a bowl of ramen does. I love it when that happens. It really made me think I should keep red cabbage in the house more regularly.