Braised Cabbage With Pasty Scraps "Spaetzle"

99% Bittersweet had a head of cabbage destined for braising on the stovetop, a vegetable accoutrement to our 2013 Thanksgiving meal. It occurred to me that we could re-purpose the scraps leftover from making pumpkin empanadas and boil them up as an analog of spaetzle (traditionally made simply by mixing flour, milk and eggs). Our pasty dough contains no egg, but I was sure that they would hold together in rapidly boiling, heavily salted water.

Of course, you're free to try with any dough scraps you have on hand: certainly this would work with pasta dough, malformed gnocchi or dumpling batter.

First, we slowly braise a smoked pork shank.

Pork Shank Braise:
  • 1 large yellow onion, quartered.
  • 1 lbs of smoked pig shanks, cut radially into 2" pieces.
  • Water to cover (about 2 quarts).
  • Crushed black peppercorns.
  • 2 bay leaves.
Simmer uncovered for 2-3 hours until meat pulls easily from the bone. Turn shanks occasionally.

Remove shanks and shred meat with a fork. Remove onions and add to pork meat. Strain liquid and reserve.

While no one is looking, suck the marrow out of the pork bones. Don't share with anyone, you're the one doing the cooking. Perks of the job!

Cabbage Braise:
  • 1 large green cabbage, quartered, cored and chopped.
  • 1 large shallot, chopped.
  • 3 tablespoons of butter.
  • Optional: I like celery seed with my cabbage. Coriander, cumin or caraway seeds are also good with cabbage.
  • Pork shank meat.
  • Pork shank liquids.
  • Turkey stock as needed.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
Sautée shallots in butter until they begin to soften, add cabbage and sautée for a few minutes (if you want to brown the cabbage that is your choice, I like a little browning).

Add reserved pork liquid and simmer for 20-25 minutes until liquid reduces and cabbage is soft and translucent.

Top with pork meat, remove from stove and cover until you are ready to serve.

Faux "Spaetzle":
  • 2-3 cups of noodle, pasty or pie dough trimmings, cut into uniform pieces and floured with AP "bench flour"
  • 1 gallon stock pot filled 80% with heavily salted, boiling water.
  • Butter or bacon fat.
In batches of about 1/2 cups of "spaetzle", boil until noodles float on surface of water.

Fry in a hot cast iron skillet with a small amount of fat until slightly browned. Transfer to an oven-safe casserole dish.

When all noodles are sautéed, place casserole dish under broiler for 6-7 minutes to brown the top (if you have an old coil electric, it's probably better to bake at 400ºF for about 15-20 minutes, those broilers are finicky).

Spoon warm braised cabbage and pork shanks over "spaetzle" and serve.


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