Not long ago, I went on a gratin-pinning spree. If you don’t know what that sentence means, you’re probably reading the wrong blog. Just kidding, mom! To my Pinterest page of recipes, I added kale and sweet potato gratin, Brussels sprouts gratin, and the beauty I’m featuring today: red cabbage gratin. In case you’ve not had the pleasure of knowing a gratin, it’s a food preparation “in which an ingredient is topped with a browned crust, often using breadcrumbs, butter, and grated cheese" (Wikipedia). Random aside: in grade school, the cafeteria served a mysteriously orange offering called "potatoes au gratin." All the kids called it "potatoes o' rotten." 'Nuff said.
Any gratin worth making is a vegetable one, in my humble opinion. And this why when I discovered a slideshow featuring just these sorts of dishes over at the Saveur website, I went on the aforementioned pinning spree. At the time I found these recipes, the trees had just begun their wardrobe change and the air was only beginning to resemble a Honeycrisp apple. Now it’s full-fledged comfort food season, and with Thanksgiving right around the corner, there’s nothing more welcome in my oven or my tummy than a casserole dish of cheesy, crispy, gooey vegetables.
Lest you be nervous to try a dish starring cooked cabbage, let me just tell you that the flavor of this dish is sublime, thanks no doubt to the Parmesan and breadcrumbs. But even more special is the tender chew and sweet, nutty aroma of the red cabbage after being bathed in paprika-spiked cream for an hour or so. Saveur recommends serving this eye-catching purple beaut' alongside roast pork, turkey, or lamb (perhaps as awesomely out-of-the-box Turkey Day fare), but I think it would stand up just fine as a meal with a green salad and some seedy crusty bread. This is the type of dining I like to do the night after Thanksgiving: something healthy, yet naughty enough to gently ease you off that gluttonous cliff that is the holidays. Cheers!
Recipe modified slightly from Saveur
Red Cabbage Gratin
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
7 cups shredded red cabbage (about 1 small head, medium shred)
1 ½ cups half and half
2 tsp. Hungarian (sweet) paprika
1 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. freshly grated pepper
salt to taste (go easy; you can always sprinkle on more just before eating)
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup finely chopped almonds (hello, food processor)
½ cup toasted whole wheat bread crumbs (props if you make your own; I used Gia Russa brand)
1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a 3-quart baking dish with one tablespoon of the butter. Put the shredded cabbage into the greased pan and set aside.
2. In a 1 quart or larger saucepan, combine the half and half, sweet paprika, sugar, salt and pepper. Heat mixture over medium heat until it just begins to simmer and steam.
3. Pour hot cream mixture over cabbage and stir to distribute evenly.
4. Toss together Parmesan, chopped almonds, and breadcrumbs in a bowl; sprinkle evenly over the creamy cabbage. (It may seem like a lot of topping, but trust me, use all of it.) Dot the top of the gratin with remaining one tablespoon butter. Feel free to drizzle with olive oil if it seems a bit dry.
5. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake the gratin until the cabbage is pleasantly tender and most of the half and half is absorbed, around 45 minutes. Then, take off the foil and turn the oven up to 400°F and bake 10-15 minutes more, until the breadcrumb-cheese-nut mixture is thoroughly browned and crispy. Let the gratin cool at least 10 minutes before serving.