What to do when a kindly neighbor gives you a gorgeous cabbage bigger than your head? I've got a ham, cabbage, and potato soup in mind for later today, but the first thing I thought of was this recipe I've been making for a few years from an old Bon Appetit.
Apologies for the crappy picture, I was hungry and couldn't be bothered to drag my lights out. After seeing exactly how crappy it is though, I shan't be so lazy again.
Although I'm sure you could use many cuts, the recipe calls for boneless country-style pork ribs to be braised in soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and Chinese five spice powder until totally fall-aparty (a technical term in our house). The result is tender, salty, umami porkiness. It's similar in style to my other favorite braised pig dish, Burmese red pork stew, but the five spice really takes it to a different place. A happy place. A place you should visit.
The cabbage side is very simple (cabbage, ginger, and sesame oil) but tastes greater than the sum of its parts, made all the more impressive with a sweet organic cabbage picked at the peak of the season. I love friendly neighbors.
1.5 lb country-style boneless pork ribs, diced into 1" chunks
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced (do 1.5 tbsp, because you'll need some for the cabbage too, below)
2 scallions, thinly sliced, plus extra for sprinkling at the end
1 cup chicken stock, low sodium
3 tbsp soy sauce, low sodium
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
pinch of dried red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp Chinese five spice powder
~ 1 lb cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced (from above - mince once!)
1 tsp sesame oil
1 cup white rice
Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a heavy pot that has a lid, like a Dutch oven. When hot, season the pork chunks lightly with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and brown them on all sides, taking care not to overcrowd the pan so they brown up nicely like in the picture above. Next add the garlic, ginger, and scallions, allowing to soften for a minute or two, then add the chicken stock, soy sauce, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, and five spice powder. Scrape up all the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Resist the urge to add more salt. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and forget about it for an hour or hour and a half. At this point, I like to use a wooden spoon to press on the chunks to see how tender they are. When they break apart with little pressure, they're ready. I like to actually use the spoon to flake the pork into smaller bits so every morsel of it gets coated in the sauce.
While the pork is braising, cook your rice according to the package directions and set aside.
When the pork is ready, heat a drizzle of olive oil over high heat in a large non-stick skillet. Add the ginger for just a moment, until aromatic, then add the cabbage with a pinch of kosher salt and sauté, tossing, until wilted and browned in places, somewhere between five and ten minutes. Turn off the heat and drizzle with the sesame oil.
Serve the pork and cabbage atop your rice and sprinkle with more scallions. I like a few dollops of Vietnamese chili and garlic sauce to finish it off.