Shaking Up the Cabbage Patch

Shake up your cabbage patch with this fresh, Pennsylvania Dutch dish that's perfect for brassica lovers.

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While interviewing cooks in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country, I am always amazed by the little nuggets of kitchen savvy that come to light when the subject of heirloom recipes comes up. Years ago farmhouse cooks had to be creative because anything wasted represented time and money out the window.

Food journalists have kept up the mistaken mantra that the Pennsylvania Dutch are little more than eaters of pigs and potatoes, when the truth is a bit healthier than that. The Pennsylvania Dutch really like their cabbage whether it comes to the table as sauerkraut or served in a range of other ingenious dishes.

We all know how nutritionists like to sermonize on the health benefits of the Brassicas, cabbage being one of the leading veggies of that clan. It so happens that the Pennsylvania Dutch already knew this and why, in my recent book As American As Shoofly Pie, I described the cultural and culinary divide between the Pennsylvania Dutch and other Americans as “the cabbage curtain.” This brings us to “shaken cabbage” or Schupfgraut as it is called in Pennsylvania Dutch dialect.

Schupf is a verb meaning “to shake,” literally to make your food hop around in a scorching hot skillet. The French word for the same thing is sauté, although most Americans do not use that word in it most literal sense. Top-of-the-line chefs know how to do it — and like wok cookery, it takes a strong arm and some pretty high BTUs to transform a good Schupf into the desired culinary effect: light browning of the ingredients on the outside, fresh tenderness and juiciness sealed in. This is a very healthful way to cook, and yes, you can do it with cabbage.

Years ago Pennsylvania Dutch cooks liked to cook shaken cabbage with butter or lard, or even goose or chicken fat — each with its own subtle flavor and paired ingredients. Today the younger cooks favor sesame oil or olive oil and this so-called “greening” of Dutch cuisine has taken things in new and exciting directions. Eaten hot as a side dish or as a one-pot meal, shaken cabbage can also be served cold or at room temperature as the perfect salad following your workout — and far more interesting than steamed broccoli.

The nice thing is that the recipe I'm sharing here is only limited by your imagination. All sorts of ingredients can be added to dress it up for more nutritional balance or simple eye appeal: sliced bell peppers, sliced apples, shredded carrots, or even diced pineapple, to name but four.



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