Cabbage Head!

She’ll probably deny this, but I distinctly remember my mother calling me “kapuściana głowa,” which literally means “cabbage head” in Polish, during what was a particularly dunder-headed period of my youth. No doubt it was a term of endearment, too, as we Poles love our cabbage, building soup, entrees, pickles, and salads with cabbage as the primary ingredient. Cabbage is cheap, nutritious, and–when cooked properly–both sweet and hearty at the same time. The other day, I was looking for something to do with four country-style pork ribs, and I thought about my aunt’s kapusta (cabbage soup), which uses the ribs as the flavor base (I will be cooking this for Christmas Eve this year). Her recipe includes fresh cabbage and prepared sauerkraut, as well as split yellow peas for body. It’s a rib-sticking soup for winter, but what I was going for was a first-hint-of-fall-in-the-air dish. This fit the bill:

Country-style pork ribs with sauteed cabbage

Ingredients:
4 country-style pork ribs, wiped dry with a paper towel
1 tablespoon olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 medium cabbage, shredded
1 large onion, sliced
2 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced

1 large clove garlic, smashed slightly with the flat of a knife
1 sprig fresh thyme
1/2 cup white wine or vermouth
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste (my taste is a LOT of pepper)

Heat the oil on med-high in a 3-quart dutch oven. Add the ribs and sear on both sides. Sprinkle each side with salt and pepper. When browned on both sides (but not fully cooked), remove the ribs to a plate or the upturned pot lid lined with a paper towel. Turn down the heat a little and add the onion, cabbage, garlic, and apples. Add the thyme sprig. When the cabbage is softened and beginning to brown (about 10 minutes), add the wine and turn up the heat to med-high again. Cook for five minutes more. Push the cabbage aside and place the ribs in the pan, covering them with the cabbage mixture. Lower the heat to medium and cover the pan. Cook, covered, until the ribs are tender, about 15 minutes more.

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