Throughout Eastern Europe, cooks make a side-dish that basically consists of green cabbage and egg noodles. It's quick-and-easy, totally-delicious, unpretentious, old-world comfort food. I simply refer to it as "cabbage and noodles" or "cabbage noodles", because every country has their own ethnic name and spelling for it and every cook is adamant that "their people" invented it -- the Eastern Europeans are no different than the French or the Italians in that respect. Sigh.
Wikipedia has an entire page devoted to halusky, haluski, halushki, haluska etc. They define them as "thick, soft, dumplings or noodles", and, "the name can refer to the dumplings themselves or the complete dish.". I grew up eating the old-world ~ Slovak Grated Potato & Onion Dumplings ~, and we called them haluski. When we were eating today's recipe, the version containing egg noodles and cabbage, we called them "easy haluski". You can find my haluski recipe in Categories 4, 12 or 14.
Cabbage is a staple in the Eastern European diet. It's cheap, available all year, and, it stays fresh in the root cellar or vegetable drawer of the refrigerator for a long time.
In any given Eastern European household, the cabbage is braised using the same basic stovetop method, but, past that, it's made to that family's liking. Some cooks braise it in bacon fat and add crisply-fried chards of bacon to the dish. Other cooks, like my mom and grandmother, braise the cabbage in butter, because, believe it or not, some folks don't think everything tastes better with bacon -- we think everything tastes better with butter. Almost everyone adds onions and some folks add bits of garlic too. Everyone seasons the dish with salt and pepper, and, occasionally a few caraway seeds. In my family's kitchens, freshly-sliced or a jar of well-drained sliced mushrooms are often added -- because we are mushroom lovers.
In any given Eastern European household, the egg noodles, which are cooked separately and often made from scratch, are typically flat, wide-ish strands. That said, for a simple weeknight side-dish, cooking a bag of store-bought egg noodles isn't a compromise. Please try to use egg noodles, not pasta, and, if you've got cooked noodles leftover from soup, this is a tasty way to use them up. Once cooked, the noodles are tossed with the cabbage and the dish is served, many times with a dollop of sour cream on top. In my grandmother's kitchen, it was her go-to side-dish for ham, roast pork, pork chops, pork sausage or kielbasa. Feel free to add sliced or diced cooked meat to the mixture to serve it as a main-dish as well.
8 ounces yellow or sweet onion, sliced into thin, half-moon shapes
1 4 1/2- or 6-ounce jar sliced mushrooms, well-drained (optional)
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons sea salt
1-2 teaspoons coarsely-ground black pepper
1 small, 2-pound head green cabbage or 1/2 of a large 4-pound head
12 ounces wide, flat egg-noodles, cooked and drained as package directs
sour cream, for serving tableside
Note: I like to use my 16" electric skillet to make cabbage and noodles. It controls the heat perfectly, and, has the capacity to hold a voluminous amount of raw cabbage (which shrinks as it wilts), along with the cooked and drained egg noodles when they get tossed in at the end. If you don't have one, use a wide-bottomed, 8-quart stockpot on the stovetop.
~Step 1. Slice the onion, as directed into 1/4"-thick half moon shapes, then cut the half moons in half to shorten them up a bit. In skillet over low heat (150°), melt the butter. Add the sliced onions, optional mushrooms, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Increase heat (200°) to gently cook, stirring frequently until the onion begins to soften. While onions and mushrooms are cooking:
~Step 2. Cut the head of cabbage in half and cut each half into quarters. Slice each quarter into 1/2"-wide strips, then, cut some of the particularly longs strips in half to shorten them into fork-friendly pieces, keeping in mind they will lose moisture and shrink a bit when cooked.
~ Step 3. Add the cabbage to the onion mixture. Using two large spoons, toss, like a salad, to coat the cabbage in butter and onions. Put lid on skillet. Adjust heat to medium (225º) and cook, stirring frequently until cabbage is tender and "to the tooth", about 15-18 minutes. Lower heat if necessary to keep the cabbage from browning.
Note: Some versions of this recipe do call for browning the cabbage a bit. Feel free to do so, but know that unlike onions, which, due to their high sugar content get sweeter as they caramelize, cabbage, does not. Cabbage which contains some sugar but not a lot, gets a bitter edge to it when fried -- I don't care for it. I like my cabbage cooked until just tender, still sweet and green.
~Step 4. While cabbage is braising, on the stovetop bring 2 1/2 quarts of water to a boil in a wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot. Add 1 tablespoon salt to the water. Add the noodles and cook, according to package directions, until "to the tooth". Drain noodles into a colander and give it a few vigorous shakes to remove excess water. Add the hot egg noodles to the cabbage mixture and toss to thoroughly coat the noodles in the buttery cabbage mixture.
Cover skillet & allow to rest 5 minutes prior to serving.
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 16" electric skillet or wide-bottomed 8-quart stockpot; two large spoons; wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot; colander
Cook's Note: Another side-dish I just love is: ~ My Grandmother's Braised Cabbage and Carrots ~. In this recipe, the raw ingredients are placed in a casserole dish and and put in the oven to braise. You can find the recipe by clicking into Categories 4, 12, 19 or 20.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)