Capital Chefs: Dennis Marron and Brian Turowski (Part II)

Red Cabbage - Marron
Chef Marron and Chef Turowski’s Pickled-Pink Red Cabbage

With pickled red cabbage added to my jar collection (which includes a living breathing, yeasty bread starter), my fridge is starting to look more like a science project for Halloween than what you would expect to be pieces to a delightfully edible puzzle.

As you read this morning, Katie and I went to The Grille at Morrison House this past weekend to pickle some onions and learn the tricks of the technique with local chefs Dennis Marron, executive chef of The Grille, and Brian Turowski, chef-de-cuisine of Jackson 20. The guys showed us their recipe for pickling the red onions that they pair with Jackson 20′s “Wedge” salad: a crunchy iceberg wedge, smothered with a creamy bleu cheese dressing, accompanied by plump bacon lardons – plated quite creatively, as Katie alluded to!

To start off our pickling adventure, Katie and I tasted two kinds of pickled red onions, comparing how more salt and more pickling time can affect the end result. The chefs also shared a taste of their pickled red cabbage, which I resolved to test at home for you.

Chef Marron recommends this same basic pickling recipe for cabbage, onions, cucumbers, and even SHRIMP- which he noted would also go well with a blue cheese salad. (Chef Marron: “While pickling vegetables softens them over time, pickled shrimp actually become harder over time as the proteins break down. So you would want to eat them quickly – after about 8 hours – and before a week and a half.”)

Pickling Spices - marron
Pickling Mise En Place

Pickled Red Cabbage


-Pickling spices – Chef Marron used a variety of whole (not ground) spices: all-spice, cloves, cinnamon, star anise, coriander, and fennel seeds. You need whole spices to more easily strain them out of the vinegar before adding the cabbage. For an inexpensive solution, look for the McCormick medley called Pickling Spice, which contains a few extra spices from what Chef Marron recommended but was very close. As for quantity, throw in about a handful of each different spice (aim for half a dozen spices for variety) or the entire container of McCormick Pickling Spice.
-1/2 cup sugar
-1/2 cup salt
-1 cup red wine vinegar – As for whether to use red or white vinegar, Marron recommends red wine vinegar for a red onion, and conversely would have used white wine vinegar for a white onion. I chose red wine vinegar for red cabbage, because it gives the cabbage a lovely pinky-purply coloring.
-3 cups water
-2 cloves crushed garlic
-3 sprigs chopped thyme
-1/4 of a red cabbage, or as much as you can fit in the pickling solution

Pickling Spice
Toasting Spices Would be a Good Way to Sell a House – or Host a Party


  • So to start, toast the whole spices in 1/2 cup of salt on the stove top. (Marron says that adding the salt at this stage keeps the spices from burning, but mine still came precipitously close to burning, so keep an eye on them.)
  • Once the spices are toasted, add 1/2 cup red wine vinegar to the pot. Hold your breath or stand back (the vinegar burns your nose!) Let it simmer for a few minutes.
  • Add in 1/4 cup of sugar (we’ll add another 1/4 cup sugar in a few minutes since Chef Marron recommends equal parts sugar and salt, but down the street at Jackson 20 they use one part sugar to two parts salt).
  • Add the water and let it simmer for a few minutes again.
  • Then add some crushed garlic and thyme, the remaining 1/2 cup of red wine vinegar the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Allow it to simmer for a few minutes.
  • Slice one quarter of the cabbage into thin ribbons or the desired shape for how you want to enjoy the finished product.
  • Strain the vinegar mixture and remove from the heat. Throw in the cabbage. Be thankful that the burning, choking, sneezing vinegar smell is almost over :).
  • Allow the cabbage to pickle for 8 hours at a minimum, but at least 24 hours is best.

Pickling Cabbage
Purple to Pink

As you heard from Katie, the Chefs plated a side of pickled red onions and thickly cut bacon lardons next to a wedge of iceberg lettuce smothered in bleu cheese dressing. For the full experience, fry up bacon an inch thick, and whip up the dressing below, courtesy of Chef Marron and Chef Turowski.

Red Cabbage - Cathy
After 24 hours, my cabbage doesn’t quite have the color or the flavor I’m waiting for. I’ll give it a little more time.

Buttermilk Bleu Cheese Dressing
Serves 4 Wedge Salads


-1/2 cup mayonnaise plus extra for thickening
-1/4 tsp. onion powder
-hint of garlic powder
-1/4 cup buttermilk
-1/4 cup tangy bleu cheese – crumbled
-Juice of 1/2 lemon
-1/4 tsp. white pepper (so you don’t have black flecks)
-1/4 tsp. salt
-4 wedges of bleu cheese for garnish

  • Combine the mayonnaise, onion powder, garlic powder, and buttermilk. Whisk the lumps out of the mixture before adding bleu cheese.
  • Add a little more mayonaise until gloppy.
  • Crumble bleu cheese into dressing.
  • Taste for enough bleu cheese, garlic powder and onion powder flavor. Add more if needed.
  • Add the lemon juice to brighten.
  • Season with the white pepper and salt.
  • Garnish with a slice of cheese (so the dressing doesn’t need to be too cheesy).

I’m still partial to the lighter bleu cheese dressing from the Green Tomato and Asian Pear Salad we made with Westend Bistro for its flavor and simplicity, but the two dressings are actually quite different, and Jackson 20′s version is definitely not one to miss.


Cathy was fortunate to spend a year in Paris – traveling to all surrounding countries and touring all that is worthy. Upon realizing that there is no place like home (she does hail from Kansas City – but did not click her heels to get back – thank you, Air France), she returned to America where she set out to explore every last inch of our massive country. From her base in the nation’s capital, she has worked in marketing and event planning for the past 4 years. Mail any and all DC related tips to Cathy (at) WeLoveDC (dot) com.

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