Cabbage rolls deconstructed

Despite the Always Hungry? diet now being a memory of things past this one recipe (and the blue cheese dressing) has stayed around the kitchen. Somehow with the rather chilly, grey days that seem to be endless, this seemed appropriate now, so I thought I’d share the recipe. Sometimes good things come from strange places. I never have thought I’d be keeping recipes from a diet book!

The recipe calls for using a food processor, and for blanching the cabbage. Since I cook for one, I really consider using a food processor a lot more work than simply getting out my knife, even if the recipe calls for “finely diced”. It’s so simple to clean a knife and a cutting board.

Here is the recipe (adapted from pp.236-237) from Always Hungry?

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 (or more) cloves of garlic
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored and seeded
  • 1-1/4 pounds ground beef (the recipe calls for lean, but not in this cook’s kitchen)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3-1/2 cups diced tomatoes (about two 14.5 ounce cans
  • 2-4 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 apple, finely diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 5-6 cups shredded cabbage (about 1/2 small head)

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. In a food processor (if you’re using it, otherwise chop and use an immersion blender, or finely dice) the onion, bell pepper and garlic. Transfer to a bowl.
  3. Stir the beef into the beef, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper (personally, I like more), into the onion mixture.
  4. Combine the tomatoes, vinegar, apple, cinnamon, remaining salt and pepper. If you have an immersion blender, use it here to complete the sauce–otherwise you can go rustic and have chunky sauce; it still tastes good.
  5. Blanch the cabbage for about 30 seconds and drain. (Not this lazy cook; it goes in the microwave briefly).
  6. Cover the bottom of a 9 x 12-inch baking dish with 1 cup of the tomato mixture. Layer with half the cabbage, then half the beef mixture; alternate tomato mixture, cabbage, and beef mixture, ending with beef and then tomato mixture.
  7. Cover with foil and bake for about 45 minutes; remove the foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes (or a bit longer if it’s still too juicy).

This is another of my cabbage “things” that gets better the day after, or even after that. It freezes well, so I don’t try to alter the recipe to cut it from 4 servings to one or two.

A son gôut!

—Ô¿Ô—

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Cabbage and pork

Ready for the oven

I guess it’s the cold weather, but seem to be craving simple, warm meat and vegetable dishes. Not very long ago I was making fårikål–lamb and cabbage stew because I found lovely shoulder chops in the meat case.

This week on my stroll around the meat case looking for bargains I found a lovely package of pork butt steaks–perfect for making another of my favorite winter dishes: braised pork and cabbage with an unusual twist to the seasoning, thanks to Jacques Pepin (and his wife).

A whole pork butt is just not in the picture when you are cooking for one! Even when you freeze part of what you make–and this does freeze well, and I do want some in the freezer for quick meals, I still really prefer making most things in quantities NOT for eight people. This recipe is one that is SO easy to adapt for cooking for one. Chops or steaks are a good alternative to a whole pork butt.

I almost made this recipe just as it was posted in the original–except I browned only one side of the pork since it was going to finish in the oven. My other modification, was to add just a touch of coriander seed to the spice mixture. For chops or steaks like this, about 30 to 45 minutes with the rub is enough.

This is a great mix of a little spicy, a little sweet, a little sour–not what you usually expect when you hear pork and cabbage!

Not photogenic, but very tasty


In cold weather–or even just chilly, grey, rainy weather–I love making braises in the oven. I’m heating the house, so the added heat is fine. The aromas of a good oven-braised dish warm the soul too.

A son gôut!

—Ô¿Ô—

Chilly weather food

Summer is not my favorite time of the year: I just don’t like hot, humid weather. It makes me kind of listless and wilted.  I don’t mind seeing winter come around because it’s my favorite cooking time.

One of my fall and winter favorites is fårikål.    That’s what I started out to make today since it’s chilly, damp, grey, and seriously pluvial but I got distracted and stumbled on a similar recipe that looked so good. From the North Wild Kitchen, I found slow-roasted lamb shoulder with cabbage.

That seemed easy to adapt to cooking for one.   Since my shoulder chops were nice and thick and it eliminated me having to trim them into chunks–just the thing for a lazy cook.

I have to admit that I didn’t do the apples, although I’m sure that would have been very good with it;  I just didn’t want to go back out into the rain to the grocery store to retrieve an apple! ( I did say “lazy cook”.)

My only modification here (other than using chops) was to cook it in my Romertopf instead of a covered baking dish since I was making a smaller quantity for just me (and the cat).

This is another keeper for cooking lamb and cabbage!

A son gôut!

—Ô¿Ô—

Christmas dinner

I’m having my usual lazy Christmas day–just me and Frankie (the cat). After having brunch of scrambled eggs with truffle butter, I turned my attention to fixing supper.

It seems that I’ve inadvertently created another Christmas tradition (aside from the oysters): chicken (or at least fowl) in a pot. I guess it has something to do with it being an easy and tasty dish that I really like. This year, though, there was a variation–it’s pheasant in a pot. It’s been awhile since I’ve had pheasant so that’s what came to mind for this Christmas supper. After-holiday sales, and sometimes specials in between, are great for eating higher-on-the-hog with lower prices–so there was a plump McFarlane pheasant, just a bit shy of 2.5 pounds, lurking in the freezer.

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…giblets removed

I toyed with cooking the pheasant with milk as I had done before with cornish game hen, but somehow I just couldn’t picture the pheasant-milk combination. So, just plain pheasant in a pot.

I couldn’t think of any reason that pheasant wouldn’t work just as well as chicken for this treatment–but since a pheasant isn’t a chicken, I thought there would have to be a little adjustment.I little skulking about (via Google) suggested that my pheasant should cook in less time than the bigger chicken (duh! About an hour or a little more). Cook’s Illustrated has a basic recipe for chicken in a pot; that seemed a good place to start since there’s always a rationale included that should make the recipe easy to modify as needed though it seems that none of that series (Cook’s Illustrated, Cook’s Country, or America’s Test Kitchen) addresses pheasant.

So, next, seasonings for the bird. Pheasant may be considered one of the “other white meats”, but it’s still more like the dark meat of the chicken: bay leaves (certainly), onion (can you cook without onion?), garlic (often used with pheasant), thyme, sage, and juniper berries (good with game) were the final seasonings that went into the pot. I also added some sliced button mushrooms with the onions while they were sautéing. These are eye-ball measurements:

  • one large onion, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • one basket sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • large pinch rubbed sage
  • 1-1/2 tablespoon minced garlic

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After browning the pheasant breast-side with the onions and mushrooms, the pheasant was flipped, seasonings added, and the pot  covered with foil and the tight-fitting lid, and it went into a 250ºF oven. Time to consider what I wanted for sides to this lovely bird.

My peasant side is showing–well, right along with bird-in-a-pot which isn’t exactly haute cuisine unless you are eating in in a US restaurant–I  rummaged through the vegetable bin and decided that something with cabbage and rutabagas would fit with the dark meat.

After some more Google use and letting my imagination run wild for a bit, it seemed something quick and easy would be a sautéed combination of those two vegetables, spruced up with a bit of a sauce of some sort. Something sweet-tart–maybe some dark buckwheat honey and lime juice and zest of one lime). I did a little shredding, julienne work (mandoline), and zesting  I left those veggies sitting in water to await cooking time; the buckwheat honey and lime zest melding; then I was off for some more quality time with the cat for an hour (until time to check the temperature of the meat (one of J.J. Salkeld’s  Lakeland mysteries).

While the bird rested (about 15 minutes or a bit more), I put the drained cabbage and rutabaga in a sauté pan with a dollop of butter (salted) and covered them–sort of a steam-sauté–until almost tender then removed the lid to let moisture evaporate while I tossed this mixture around a bit with my sauce (about 10 or 12 minutes altogether).

After scraping up all the good brown stuff from the pot, the juices from the roasting pot were strained, and enriched with a blob of truffle butter. End of cooking–time to eat!

Just a word about en coquette cooking: the meat is absolutely luscious, but don’t expect the same kind of browning that you’d get with dry-heat roasting. I can attest that it works very well–as well as braising–with farm-raised pheasant. I’ll most likely do it again with the next pheasant I decide to eat.

The cabbage/rutabaga combination turned out to be even better than I had expected–always a pleasant surprise–even before the sauce went on. Just with the butter it would have been an admirable side to the pheasant. The mandolin made short work of both the shredding and the julienne work and the cooking time was only about about 10 or 12 minutes. I have to admit that there are leftovers from the 1/2 rutabaga and 1/4 head of cabbage. (I’m thinking that they could be turned into rösti or fritters for a main course since I didn’t add the sauce to the entire batch of cabbage and rutabaga.)

Wine? Of course, but since I had some of the Les Hérétiques left from last night, I decided I’d just go with that–it’s a good all purpose wine–maybe not what I’d have chosen were I giving it a lot of thought, but sometimes it’s a needs-must situation–I love my wine vinegar but there’s a limit to how much good wine I’m going to pour into that jar. So–I finished that bottle this evening. The “leftover” wine was quite good with this combination of food–the blackberry was a nice contrast to the other flavors here.

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If I want to sound really fancy, I guess I just ate pheasant en coquette with truffle  au jus–whatever you call it it was a fine meal, even if I can’t get the cat to say so though I’m not that modest. I’m still listening to Christmas music and enjoying a another glass of wine. The other half pheasant has been boned and stashed, and the carcass is in the slow-cooker making pheasant broth. I’m not sure what is going to evolve out of the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day leftovers, but I would guess that there is going to be some pheasant soup, among other things.

The kitchen is tidy–only the roasting pot left to soak with baking soda overnight–and only clean things to put away from the drainer in the morning. Altogether a most pleasant day with the cat, low-intensity, undemanding cooking, music, and reading.

I was contemplating starting to filter my chocolate/cardamom/ancho/golden rod-aster honey liqueur this evening, but I’m just too full and lazy. I decided it would be better to start that in the morning since it is a long process–so now to quality time with the cat and Kindle since I’m happily fed and still enjoying wine.

I hope all of you had as pleasant a day as I did. A final happy holidays to you if you happen to be celebrating something just now.

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Cabbage steaks

As a fan of cabbage in many forms other than coleslaw, I was delighted to find this recipe on Avocado Pesto for Vegan Cabbage Steaks with Tahini sauce. Try it–you’ll have a very pleasant surprise.

Addendum:  In reviewing my notes I realize I used only 2 teaspoons of mustard rather than 2 tablespoons  called for in the recipe. The dijon mustard that I have is REALLY potent. I think with 2 tablespoons that would have been the only flavor you’d get.

Always Hungry? Cabbage Casserole

white cabbage cropped IMG_6018One of the recipes from Always Hungry?  that I wanted to try was the Cabbage Casserole (pages 236-237) since I feel that cabbage is an underappreciated vegetable that should be (at least) a winter staple. I suspect that when many people hear cabbage mentioned as an edible thing, they think “coleslaw”, or the St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage, or, perhaps, stuffed cabbage.

The other advantages to me were that it was an “all phases” dish, and I didn’t see anything that would make it impossible to freeze for later use. So, the Cabbage Casserole happened today. When I’m trying a new recipe, I like to make it as directed, except for seasonings that I thought needed adjustment for my taste. As usual, I found one thing that I felt could be modified without changing the results, but would make the recipe easier.

The directions call for blanching the cabbage in boiling water. I assumed (yes, I do know what “assume” does to you and me) that the blanching was to soften the cabbage a bit so that the texture wouldn’t be crunchy in the finished dish–just as you soften the leaves when making stuffed cabbage with whole leaves. Instead of blanching, I put the cabbage, with a splash–maybe a tablespoon–of water into the microwave until it had softened–about 5 minutes, then proceeded with the layering of the meat mixture, the cabbage, and the apple-tomato mixture as instructed in the recipe. Then, into the oven.

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cabbage casserole and serving on blue plate

cabbage casserole

The casserole is out of the oven, and I’ve enjoyed a serving. It’s another keeper. I’m surprised and pleased. The seasoning as in the recipe is good as is, though for my taste, I may add a little more garlic next time. The amount of cinnamon is perfect.  It’s another keeper even though it’s associated with a weight-loss program. The final result has a bit more liquid than I hoped, even though I baked it uncovered a little longer than the recipe called for. The recipe did not call for draining the tomatoes, but I’ll do that next time.

The microwave was apparently a good substitute for the blanching: the cabbage is tender, and not at all crunchy. I’ll happily eat this again, looking forward to having a glass of a hearty red wine to accompany it.

cabbage casserole up close

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Spice is a state of mind: cabbage thoran

Good information for all of us who cook using spices.

The Odd Pantry

Cabbage thoran Cabbage thoran

Sometimes spice is just a state of mind. Plants don’t come with Dymo-printed labels that say ‘Spice use recommended’.

Now you might think I’m making an issue out of nothing. Obviously, plants that produce a strong appetizing smell can be used as spices, and others not, right? No mind tricks necessary.

But consider what happens during the process of blooming spices, otherwise known as tempering, or tadka. A sequence of spices are thrown into hot oil. They may be seeds — like cumin or black mustard, dry leaves like the bay, or even bits of bark — like cinnamon.

If the temperature is too low, nothing particular happens, while if the temperature is too high, the spice burns. But if the temperature is just right, two things happen. One, the outer surface of the spice browns. This browning, known as the Maillard reaction, is the perfect state of cooked food…

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