Schnitzel is one of the ultimate comfort foods. It’s hard not to like a food that is fried and golden brown. Schnitzel is commonly made from chicken or veal, but you’ll also find vegetarian versions made from celery root or, in this case, cabbage.
Any recipe for schnitzel always catches my eye, and I’ve often come across cabbage schnitzel in Russian and Eastern European cooking. Meat in that part of the world could be scarce, and cooks came up with creative solutions for making vegetables taste richer.
Cabbage also often was one of the only fresh vegetables available during the long winter months. Even after immigrating to the United States with its year-round abundance of all foods, cabbage is still a favored vegetable among families from the former Soviet Union. We ate a lot of it in my own Russian Jewish home: cooked, fermented, in soups or in salads. I especially love cabbage as a meat stand-in for its texture, volume and versatility.
Cabbage schnitzel can be made with boiled cabbage leaves that are folded into envelope shapes that then get battered, coated with breadcrumbs and fried just like a chicken schnitzel. But my preferred style of cabbage schnitzel requires less work and instead employs a thick batter of shredded cooked cabbage, breadcrumbs and beaten eggs to form the schnitzels. This style of cabbage patty ends up with a schnitzel shape and thickness, golden brown outer layer and crispy edges.
You can serve this unexpectedly rich entrée with a squeeze of lemon and fresh dill for added brightness. Cabbage schnitzel can also be topped with a dollop of sour cream, and I’ve been known to use some hot sauce for heat.
While there are a few steps to this recipe, each one is simple, the ingredients are few, the cooking time is quick and the payoff is big. Cabbage schnitzel tastes little of cabbage and instead transforms into something savory, caramelized, meaty and satisfying.
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