Braised Red Cabbage with Pancetta and Balsamic Vinegar

Long, slow cooking transforms red cabbage, rendering it soft and sweet. Pancetta adds meaty depth and balsamic vinegar supplies a mellow note. You can add a grated pear to this braise or a couple of grated raw red beets; they will melt into the cabbage as it cooks. Make this dish up to one day ahead; the flavor even seems to benefit when it is cooled and reheated. Serve with pork chops, grilled sausage, duck, or game. From Eating Local by Janet Fletcher (Andrews McNeel)

  • 1 small head red cabbage, about 1-1/2 pounds
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 ounces pancetta, in small dice
  • 1 medium yellow onion, halved and sliced thin
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Quarter and core the cabbage, then slice each quarter thinly crosswise.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over moderate heat. Add the pancetta and sauté for about 3 minutes to render some of its fat. Add the onion and sauté, stirring often, until the onions are softened and lightly colored, 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and sauté 1 minute to release its fragrance. Add the cabbage, wine and bay leaf. Season with salt and stir to coat the cabbage with the oil and seasonings. Bring to a simmer, cover, and adjust the heat so the cabbage cooks steadily but gently. Stir occasionally and lower the heat if the pot threatens to cook dry.

After 30 minutes, stir in the vinegar. Re-cover and continue cooking until the cabbage is very tender, about 30 minutes longer. Remove the bay leaf. If there is any liquid in the bottom of the pot, raise the heat and cook, stirring, until it has evaporated. Taste for salt and add several grinds of black pepper. Serve immediately, or let cool to room temperature and reheat to serve.

Serves 6