There is no point in trying to pretend. As of today, it is officially six days until we hand over our house keys, pack up the car, and drive to Maine to get ready for the wedding. Things are starting to get just the teensiest bit crazy around here.
This weekend, for instance, Friday I spent 45 minutes on the phone with my mother's very dear friend, going over all the final details for the flowers before finishing up my last column and arriving at the restaurant seven minutes late. Saturday a friend's mom and I did the practice hair run (big! and curly!) and I walked around doing the recycling at work like some sort of Jessica Simpson shake-those-curls-loose barbie doll, and Sunday Alex and I got the yard all squared away for freezing temperatures. It's been feeling sort of like a perpetual Christmas Eve, a long, drawn-out one, where for weeks and weeks on end you hurry around waiting for the big day, slowly ticking off the time in your head.
Luckily, in the midst of all the chaos, cabbage season decided to show up. There is no vegetable like cabbage to keep you grounded, I think, and savoy cabbage works some particular magic. There's something about the way it ruffles—the way it's all composure and elegance on the outside, even though everything is tightly wound and scrunched up underneath. We've been braising it, recently, cooking it down with butter and onions and thyme and sherry until it collapses into a soft, tender heap, and it's been just the thing. We're sort of the same way by the end of the day, actually, come to think of it, Alex and the cabbage and I, all wilting just a little bit into our dinner plates.
Slowly, though, with the help of a bit of pork and herb butter and a hunk of bread, by the end of the meal, we perk back up. The cabbage lulls us into a soft, contented sort of haze, and we sit on the couch making lists about packing and to-do's and thank-you notes and RSVPs. It's nothing fancy or exciting, but I think the braised cabbage has been keeping us sane.
I'll be back on Thursday to tell you about a very special someone and how he taught me to fillet fish, but after that, I won't be around for a while. We'll be in Maine for a week, and then in Boston for a few hours, and then, if I pinch myself hard enough, in Paris for three days and Italy for two (!) whole (!) weeks. We'll be back November 28th, and I promise to be here on Monday, November 30th, with a whole new set of stories to tell.
Until then, I hope you'll enjoy this cabbage. It is very good, I promise, at holding all the hurry at bay.
BRAISED SAVOY CABBAGE WITH ONIONS AND THYME
I probably shouldn't admit this, but until the other day, I wasn't entirely clear on what the word braising really meant. I understood the results, and I was a big fan, but I wasn't quite sure how to get there. I went on sort of a braising kick reading online until I at least had a vague grasp on the term, but I'm hoping, one of these days, to pick up this book and learn a whole lot more. I have a feeling, based on the cabbage, that braising is my kind of thing.
3 tablespoons butter
2 onions, diced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 medium size head savoy cabbage, core removed and chopped into thin ribbons
1 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon sherry
salt and pepper to taste
Melt the butter over medium high heat in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot. Throw in the onions and let them sweat for 10 minutes or so, stirring frequently so they don't burn. Midway through add the thyme, and once the onions are soft and translucent, add the cabbage. Continue sauteing while stirring constantly. When the cabbage and onions have lost their moisture and are very dry, after about five minutes, pour in the chicken stock.
Continue stirring constantly, mixing the onions and cabbage with the stock, until the stock has been reduced by at least half. (There should be only a little bit of visible juice mixed in with the cabbage at the bottom of the pot, more of a glaze than a broth.) Add the milk and the sherry, and reduce the liquid by half again. When the milk and chicken stock form a nice, thick glaze, season the cabbage with salt and pepper to taste, and you're ready to eat.
We had this alongside a thick pork chop with a little bit of blue cheese herb butter on top and a slice of bread—it is the perfect vegetable accompaniment to that sort of hearty meat cut. A rib-eye would be good too—anything with heft and a good amount of fat. If you don't eat meat, though, it doesn't matter too much. I ate the cabbage the next day for lunch with just the herb butter and a hunk of toasted bread, and it was just as good.