Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Varză roşie cu cârnaţi - Romanian Red Cabbage and Sausage

     Today's Romanian red cabbage and sausage recipe is nice for the autumn and winter seasons.  The comfortable warmth of paprika makes this entree appealing in chilly weather.
     Pork is the traditional number one meat staple in Romania.  Some of the greatest pork recipes in the world are Romanian in origin.  Plain fresh pork sausage is used in this recipe.  Mild fresh bratwurst style sausage or a fresh unsmoked kielbasa style sausage are good choices.  These sausages are not just German and Polish in origin.  These types of sausage are made nearly everywhere in easter europe and Russia.  Salt and pepper are the main flavors of these simple sausages and the quality of the pork flavor does all the talking.
     Good paprika is essential for making this recipe.  Hungarian paprika has the correct flavor profile for making the entree.  Spanish paprika does not have quite as rich of a flavor.  Smoked paprika is required for this recipe too.  Many Hungarian paprika packages do contain a percentage of smoked paprika in the mixture and some are 100% smoked paprika.  Reading the Hungarian label can be difficult if there is no translation on the label, so asking a clerk at an eastern european market to translate the label may be necessary.  Even with no smoked Hungarian paprika, this recipe will still taste good.
     This entree is traditionally made with white cabbage, but red cabbage is also popular in Romania.  The reddish blue color of the cabbage gives this entree a rich look, yet varză roşie cu cârnaţi is actually light on the tummy.
     Varză roşie cu cârnaţi:
     Heat a large sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of blended olive oil.
     Add 1/2 cup of thin sliced onion.
     Saute till the onions start to turn clear in color.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped red bell pepper.
     Add 1/2 of a medium size head of red cabbage that is very thinly sliced.  (about 5 to 6 cups)
     Saute and stir, till the cabbage begins to wilt.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of tomato paste.
     Add 1 tablespoon of mild Hungarian paprika.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of ground smoked Hungarian paprika.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red pepper.  (chile caribe)
     Add 1 pinch of whole caraway seed.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 2 pinches of chopped fresh rosemary leaf.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add just enough light pork broth to almost cover the cabbage.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Place 2 or 3 plain pork sausages or plain bratwurst on top of the cabbage.  (The sausages should weigh about 3 to 5 ounces apiece.)
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Cover the pot with a loose fitting lid.
     Gently simmer the ingredients, till the sausages become fully cooked.
     Remove the sausages from the pot and place them on a cutting board.
     Cut the sausages into large bite size pieces.
     Return the sausage slices to the pot.
     Add the juice of 1/2 of a lemon.
     Continue to simmer the ingredients, till the cabbage becomes very tender.  Allow the sauce to reduce to a thin sauce consistency that coats the ingredients.  (Add a splash of water or light pork broth if the cabbage becomes dry.)
     Place the simmered red cabbage, the remaining broth and sausage pieces into a large bowl.
     Try to expose some of the sausage slices on the surface.
     Garnish the bowl with a rosemary sprig.
     Serve with sliced bread on the side.
     For a simple entree, this plate of old fashioned Romanian sausage and cabbage has a rich satisfying flavor.  Paprika is not only used by Hungarians.  It is a common ingredient in many cuisines of eastern europe.  Paprika reconstitutes in simmering liquid to create a sauce.  Lemon brightens the flavor of the entree.  Varză roşie cu cârnaţi is simple and delicious!

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