Celebrate Oktoberfest in Style: Braised Red Cabbage and Pork Chops in a Mustard Sauce
“Why don’t we celebrate Oktoberfest in October?” I asked Pat as we drove home from our weekly knitting group.
“Because it’s too cold for the band to play outdoors. Verne’s trombone slide won’t slide when it gets too cold. So, the band has to play in September.”
“Hmmm,” was all I could summon as I imagined the Summit County brass band kitted out in Lederhosen, with their lips frozen to the mouthpieces of their instruments.
Per usual, Pat was right. As I write this on the second day of October, there are 14 inches of snow on the ground with another 6 inches expected tonight.
The sudden arrival of winter makes this Oktoberfest dinner one you’ll want to enjoy immediately. It tastes better when dining in front of a roaring fire with a hint of snow in the air, or a foot on the ground.
But there’s a caveat. It cannot, must not, be eaten alone.
When I cook, it’s for one. But there are some dishes I create and know they must be shared. This is an example. As I was braising the cabbage and apple and pear, I took a taste, put down my spoon and called Pat. “Can I share this meal with you and Verne, tomorrow?”
So, we did and called it Pat’s Belated Birthday Dinner, and it was delicious.
So, if you also usually cook for one, invite a friend to join you for this dinner. Or invite yourself over to a friend’s house and bring this. In either case, you will be welcomed and thanked profusely. This is a dinner to linger over with a friend or two in front of the fire with a glass of wine, to discuss nothing more important than how nice it is that the weather has changed so you can enjoy a meal this satisfying. Or gingerly consider the merits of celebrating Oktoberfest in September versus October.
Braised Red Cabbage and Pork Chops in a Mustard Sauce
This is a dinner that looks elegant and complex. But don’t be fooled. The entire dinner is ready in less than 30 minutes, with two pans on the stove top, and is delicious, healthy and easy.
Braised Red Cabbage
1 head red cabbage, sliced into long strips
1 Asian pear
1 Granny Smith apple
1 medium sweet onion
2-3 slices bacon
1 teaspoon dry ground mustard (substitute with 1 tablespoon of Dijon or country mustard if you don’t have dry ground mustard)
1 generous splash of Balsamic vinegar
salt, pepper to taste, a scraping of fresh nutmeg would also be perfect
This braised cabbage dish looks so elegant, has taste of such depth, and yet it’s easy and ready in less than 30 minutes. Best of all, while it cooks, you can prepare the pork chops and have a glass of wine!
1. Chop the head of cabbage into long slivers. Chop the apple and pear into bite-size slices. Chop the onion and the bacon.
2. Add the bacon and onion into a skillet and begin to gently cook on medium heat. When the onion is soft and the bacon has cooked through, add the cabbage, apple, pear, ground mustard, generous splash of Balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Cover the skillet, turn the cooking level to medium-medium low and allow to braise slowly for 20 minutes.
3. Once or twice during the cooking time, taste, stir and adjust the seasonings. Serve when the cabbage has reached the desired doneness.
Pork chops in a Mustard Sauce
2 to 4 pork chops depending on the number of guests
1 tablespoon of butter
2 shallots — thinly sliced
1 tablespoon of mustard (preferably Dijon or a coarse country mustard)
½ cup half and half
Salt and pepper to taste
Once again, a scraping of fresh nutmeg would be lovely
1. Brown the pork chops in a little butter. Then place them in a 375F oven to cook for 10-12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chops.
2. While the chops are cooking, wipe out the pan you cooked the chops in, add another dollop of butter and gently sauté the shallots until just wilted. Then add the mustard, and the half and half. Season with salt, pepper and a light grating of fresh nutmeg, taste and adjust the seasoning. Stir over a medium heat until combined. Add the pork chops back into the sauce and let them enjoy a brief flavorful bath.
Serve the chops and sauce with the braised cabbage, and enjoy the admiration of your friends.
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