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Cabbage and Potatoes with Brown Butter and Cheese

March 10, 2011

Cabbage and potatoes – a humble combination, yes.  But don’t be fooled – beneath its humble, peasant-y essentials, it’s really a vehicle for cheese, brown butter, and did I mention cheese?

Originally from Deborah Madison’s The Savory Way, this dish was the only acceptable vehicle for cabbage for most of my adolescence.  And, erm, most of my adulthood, too.  My stepmom, Sonya, has made some changes from the original recipe over the years, and Lily and I made a couple more.

This has become a bit of a family heirloom dish – it’s one of several my sisters and I request regularly when we visit, and one that I’m now thrilled to make myself.  (And psssst – guess what.  Chris likes it, too!)  If you’re in the market for a St. Patrick’s-appropriate dish, look no further.  Lily (who, um, swears she doesn’t like cabbage) and I made this twice during a recent weekend, and we’re looking forward to the excuse to make it again.

Cabbage and Potatoes with Brown Butter and Cheese (adapted from Deborah Madison’s The Savory Way)

– 8 Tbs (1 stick) butter

– 1 lb red potatoes, skins on, cut into half-inch chunks

– 2 large leeks, sliced 1/4 inch thick (white parts only)

– 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

– 1/2 tsp dried sage or 1 tsp fresh sage

– 3-4 pinches red pepper flakes

– 1 to 2 lbs green cabbage (preferably savoy, but not essential), shredded into 1-inch wide strips  (Note: if you shred the cabbage too finely, it will get too soft during the baking.)

– 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

– 1/2 lb fontina cheese, grated

– Salt and pepper, to taste


– Melt the butter slowly in a saucepan over low heat.  Once melted, skim foam, remove from heat and let sit for a few minutes to allow the milk solids to settle to the bottom.  Carefully pour the melted butter off of the milk solids into a bowl.  Discard milk solids, and return butter to the saucepan.  Heat over medium-low until the butter turns a golden brown and gives off an irresistibly nutty scent.  Set aside.  Yields 4-6 Tbs brown butter.

– Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

– Boil potatoes until just tender.  Drain and rinse.

– Heat half of the brown butter over medium heat in a large pan or Dutch oven.  Add leeks, sage, garlic, and red pepper flakes.  Add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan, and stew over medium low until the leeks soften.

– Add cabbage by the handful, until the pan will fit no more.  Allow the cabbage to cook down and add remaining cabbage.  Cook until cabbage is just tender.

– Toss together cabbage/leek mixture, potatoes, remaining brown butter, and Parmesan cheese.

– Season to taste with salt and pepper

– Layer cabbage/potato mixture with the fontina in a baking dish, making sure that the top is thoroughly covered with cheese.

– Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes, removing the foil for the last 5.  If you’re having trouble getting the cheese brown and bubbly, I’ve had great luck with the broiler, in limited, carefully-watched doses.

Makes approximately 6 large-ish servings.

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