When I was growing up, you could count on several suppers happening that week—our weekly visit to the cafeteria, a trip to our favorite Tex-Mex restaurant, a concoction my mom made called bean salad, and a skillet dish made up of fried sausage, potatoes, and cabbage.
Eating out at both the cafeteria and for Tex-Mex were always good fun—you’ll get no complaints from me here. The bean salad, however, was a bit more traumatizing, as it was essentially Frito salad without the Fritos and a whole lot more healthy. I was not a fan. (That said, in my new book I do include an updated Frito salad that does pay homage to my mom’s old favorite.)
But of all our family’s mainstays, I’d say the one I adored the most was the skillet dish of sausage, cabbage and potatoes. It’s so simple and yet comforting, it’s curious that as an adult that I seldom make it for myself.
I decided to remedy that recently, after I bought some fresh and smoky kielbasa sausage. When I asked my mom about the recipe, however, she said that she made it with the sausage that you get at the store—nothing fancy. Actually, all three ingredients are pretty humble, yet there’s a bit of magic that occurs in the skillet that makes this dish so enchanting.
First you fry some potatoes. Then you add the sausage to the mix, and let them get juicy and crisp. Lastly, you throw in a whole mess of cabbage, and let it surrender to the pan drippings until it’s soft, salty, and slick.
While there wasn’t much I needed to do to improve on the original sausage, potato, and cabbage skillet fry, I did choose to jazz mine up with some added jalapeños for a bit of heat. I also threw in some caraway seeds, as their anise-like flavor play well with the Eastern-European influenced dish. Lastly, while we didn't do this growing up, I now serve mine with a bit of mustard, as it's tanginess cuts some of the richness of the sausage.
As we’re heading toward those colder and shorter days where the only things you can find at the farmers market are usually cabbage and potatoes, this simple skillet fry will go into heavy rotation in my home. And when I’m looking for some Texas comfort and warmth, a plate of sausage, potato, and cabbage served with tangy mustard is always a welcome meal.
Austin-area friends: Saturday, October 25th, from 11 to 11:45, I’ll be speaking in the Texas tent at the Texas Book Festival with a book signing afterwards. (Signed books make wonderful gifts and this will be my last Central Texas appearance before the holidays.) The festival has an amazing line-up of authors and I'm super excited to attend, and I look forward to visiting with some of y'all there!
Sausage, Potato, and Cabbage Skillet Fry
2 tablespoons olive oil or bacon grease
2 Russet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/4-inch cubes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound smoky kielbasa sausage, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rings
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
2 jalapeños, seeds and stems removed, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups shredded cabbage
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Yellow or whole-grain mustard, for serving
In a large deep skillet or wok, heat up the oil on medium-low heat and add the diced potatoes. Season the potatoes with the salt. Cover the skillet, and cook the potatoes for 5 minutes. After this time, take off the cover, stir the potatoes and make sure that none are sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cover the skillet again and continue to cook for 5 more minutes.
Take off the cover and add to the skillet the sausage, onion, and jalapeño, and cook uncovered stirring occasionally for 8-10 more minutes or until the potatoes and sausage are cooked. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
Add the cabbage, caraway seeds, and the cayenne to the skillet, and cook while occasionally stirring for 5 more minutes or until the cabbage is soft and tender. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Serve warm with the mustard on the side.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014