Note: First, make the ghee: Put the butter in a small pan, bring it to a simmer, and cook until it turns brown at the edges, 3 to 4 minutes. Let the butter sit for a minute. Then tilt the pan and carefully skim off the solidified top crust with a spoon, taking care to remove as much of this stiff white froth as possible. Put it in a small dish. Pour the clear golden butter into another small dish, and pour the darker brown dregs at the bottom of the pan into the dish containing the froth. This can be done well ahead of time, even a day or two before; ghee keeps well in the refrigerator.
Ready your seasonings, because once the cooking starts, it will go fast.
Heat your very widest skillet over high heat. Seriously, it should be almost comically oversize for this amount of cabbage.
If you have nothing larger than a regulation 10-incher, you should probably cook this in two batches to avoid steaming—instead of lightly charring—the cabbage.
When the skillet is hot, add the ghee and the ginger. The ginger should fry immediately. Dump in the cabbage and stir.
Add the garlic, thyme, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, salt, and pepper. Spread the cabbage out evenly and continue to fry over very high heat, stirring every 45 seconds or so, giving the cabbage time to caramelize on the bottom. Watch that it doesn’t actually burn, but let it get a little dark on the edges. Cook until the cabbage has lost its raw taste but before it goes completely limp, about 5 minutes. Add the reserved butter froth, stir to combine, turn out into a serving dish, and serve immediately.
Reprinted with permission from The New Midwestern Table: 200 Heartland Recipes, by Amy Thielen.
Sarah Wu teaches speech at a grammar school in Chicago, and she always brings her lunch. Well, one day she didn’t. Instead, she went to the school cafeteria for a student lunch, and what followed was a year of blogging that became a book.