Romanian Oven-Roasted Cabbage... "Varza La Cuptor"... This cabbage dish has become one of my new favorites in the last few weeks. I've made it multiple times... and never got tired of it:).
What I love most about it is that it uses real basic ingredients, resulting in a dish I can eat for days. Funny thing is that I love it cold out of the fridge as well! I know...
Now, this dish has roots to my Romanian heritage. It was a dish made often in our home while growing up. Since my mom always had homemade sauerkraut in the house, she would make this dish using only fermented cabbage...whole cabbage heads which she sliced thinly.... and she really didn't add any fresh cabbage like I do. But since I don't always have a barrel of sauerkraut on hand, I opt to "fill in" the sauerkraut amount with fresh cabbage and add some lemon juice to make up for some of the acidity sauerkraut imparts to the dish.
But what I really like, is that on a whim, when I crave this dish, I can make it with just an 18 oz container of store-bought fermented sauerkraut... and a raw head of cabbage. Now I found a particular brand for sauerkraut(Wildbrine) that tastes exactly like the sauerkraut I grew up with... so that's what I used here. However, I've also used jarred Bubbies brand sauerkraut as well... without the garlic and dill flavor.
If you like anything caramelized... onions especially, you might enjoy this dish. The cabbage in this dish bakes and releases wonderful aromas and tantalizing caramelized flavors. While you can add all sorts of other ingredients to the dish... I love it in its simplicity- cabbage, sauerkraut and onion.
I am always amazed when simple ingredients produce a dish that's complex in flavors. In the end, the roasted cabbage should have a "dry" consistency... without any liquid lingering in the dish.
Romanians love to pair this dish with sausages, fried pork chops and roast duck. A side of freshly made polenta usually completes the meal. I'm fine eating it by itself... but my husband enjoys it with sausage:).
Next time, try roasting the cabbage in the oven... you'll notice roasting brings the cabbage to another level. Hope you enjoy...
Note: While I drained my sauerkraut of all the juice and added lemon juice instead, you can opt to not drain the sauerkraut in case you have no lemon juice on hand... I like to reserve the sauerkraut juice for making soups and love to add lemon juice to the cabbage as it adds another level of acidity the cabbage needs.
Also, while I added the amounts needed for the cabbage and sauerkraut, you can easily adjust by adding more sauerkraut and less cabbage... same goes with the tomato paste or olive oil. For me these amounts work wonderfully well. The cabbage isn't too greasy, nor is it too tomato-y, nor too sour. But everyone's taste is different:)...
You will need:
1 head (3lb) green cabbage, sliced thin
1 med/large onion, sliced thin
1(18 oz) container, sauerkraut, drained- (mine was dill and garlic flavored)
3-5 TBS lemon juice, or to taste -I used 5 TBS meyer lemon juice
6 TBS olive oil
3 TBS tomato paste, can be optional
1 tsp sea salt, or to taste
pepper to taste
Other Additions Can Be Added To Taste:
lardons of bacon
sausages, added at the end of the cooking time- or you can pan fry
- Preheat oven to 375 deg F
2. Slice cabbage thinly, can use mandoline if desired. Add to pan.
3. Slice onion thinly, can use mandoline if desired. Add to pan.
4. Drain sauerkraut(reserve liquid for other uses, such as soups) and add sauerkraut to the rest of cabbage ingredients that's in the pan.
5. In a small bowl, mix the remainder of the olive oil(5 TBS), tomato paste(if using), salt, pepper and lemon juice until combined thoroughly. Pour over cabbage ingredients.
6. Mix all cabbage ingredients thoroughly until all cabbage is coated with the oil mixture. At this point you can add other ingredients you may like... I added some spicy red pepper.
Note: If you find the pan is too small to mix all the cabbage ingredients in, then opt to mix them in a large bowl beforehand and then level it out in the roasting pan.
7. Place pan in preheated oven and bake for 1 hour - 1 hour and 30 minutes... or until cabbage is nicely colored and caramelized... and all liquid is evaporated. You will need to turn the cabbage over in the pan every 10-15 minutes... so the cabbage gets caramelized evenly. My cabbage was done around 1 hour and 15 minutes.
I made 2 versions of the oven-roasted cabbage... one with tomato paste ... and one without tomato paste. Both were delicious! So in case, you don't have any tomato paste, you can still enjoy making the dish with just a few simple ingredients.