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Each and every year, as the cold winter nights grow even colder, I find myself craving the Eastern European-style dishes of my heritage: warming soups like borscht, starchy fare like kasha varnishkes, and long-cooking braises of meat and vegetables alike.
One of my favorite square meals in this category is sweet-but-funky braised cabbage and apples accompanied by tender slices of roast pork loin: they pair beautifully and, combined, are filling without being too heavy. But here's the thing about that roast pork: sometimes it's tempting to take slice after slice of it, going light on the cabbage served alongside. I think that's a shame; humble braised cabbage might not win any beauty contests, but when it's made with care and enlivened with a few key aromatics, it's actually a subtly complex side dish.
For this recipe, I decided to make the cabbage the star. Sweetened with soft apples and onions and rounded out with nutty caraway seeds, bright apple cider vinegar, a hint of sugar and fragrant fresh dill, this is one cabbage dish you'll want to heap on the plate. And instead of fussing around with a huge pork loin that can take an hour to cook, I serve the soft cabbage with fast-cooking, easy to whip up homemade pork sausage patties that are full of flavor from shallots, garlic, fennel seeds, and chile flakes, with a dash of dry sherry for added moisture. Just one and a half pounds of ground meat will serve four people, ensuring that the tender cabbage will play the main character at dinner.
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