Okay, a serial story didn’t work. All I’ve got left is cooking. I did for fifteen years, mostly as a line cook or sous chef. What I want to offer you are recipes that are semi-healthy and won’t kill you in preparation (maybe a little). Today we’re going to try stuffed cabbage. Jenny Hansen was looking for Polish recipes and I had one and gave it to her in a compact form. Here’s the long form, starting at the grocery store.
We’re going to start in produce. First, we need a cabbage. The common garden variety will do. Pick one about the size of a volley ball or a bit larger. If it has dark outside leaves, great. We’ll need a medium onion. (A note, check the frozen food section for diced frozen onions.)
Okay, on to the meat department. If you have an in-house butcher (good luck) beautiful. Have him coarse grind a pound and half each of pork and veal and a pound of beef (80%)’ If you’re like the rest of us you’ll have to settle for meatloaf mix. It’s a combination pork, veal and beef but closer to 1 to1 to 1 ratio. You’ll need two and a half pounds usually two packages.
We’ll need rice. White or brown is your choice. If your rice cooking skills aren’t that great, try Minute Rice.
We’ll stop in the soup aisle and pick up a sixteen ounce container of chicken stock. Yeah, there’s broth, but broth is made from boiling the crap out of meat with vegetables in water. Stock is made from bones and meat with veggies and seasonings. The bones add gelatin which give a better mouth feel.
You’ll need two eggs, so if you don’t have any, pick up six.
Now a stop in that aisle that you avoid because you really don’t know what’s in it. The aisle that has baking supplies and kitchen gadgets. Two thing, okay, three. Two packages of aluminum roasting pans about medium, you’ll need four but they come in packs of three. And you’ll need a steamer basket, one of those flower-looking things that fits inside a pot. It you’ve got a pasta pot with a strainer you can pull out ignore the last item.
The last item is in the Italian foods section, a tube of tomato paste. Too often you buy a can of tomato paste. It’s small and harmless but most recipes only need a tablespoon and the rest turns black and takes over the bottom shelf of your refrigerator.
You’re home. Pour yourself a nice glass of wine or Jack Daniels and let’s get started. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Get your pasta pot or largest soup pot with water in it on a back burner. If you bought or have a steamer basket take out the stemmy thing in the middle, it gets in the way. You’re going to need about a cup of cooked rice, so follow the instructions on the package. One thing though, add a little less water than needed the rice will absorb liquid in cooking. Now comes the dangerous part. Grasp your cabbage lovingly and take a small sharp knife and cut out the core. It won’t scream, much. Place it in the large pot and cover. You’re going to have to pay attention to the water in the bottom of the pot, you don’t want it to boil out.
For those of you who follow Martha, dice the onion. If you bought the frozen onions add about three quarters of a cup to a large bowl. Add the meat. Salt and pepper the meat to your taste then add a bit more. We tend to underseason when we prep meals and leave it to the diners to empty the salt shaker all over our food. Crack in two eggs. Mix gently, you don’t want to mush everything together. The rice should be done about now. Let it cool a bit and add it to the meat mix. Again, gently combine. Refrigerate.
Now, the cabbage. It should be steaming now. Take the pot off the heat and after removing the lid try to loosen some of the leaves. If it gets to be too much of a pain in the a** get help. That’s what kids, husbands, boyfriends and significant others are for. This might take a while but as the leaves come loose put them on a cookie sheet to cool.
Still with me? Now comes the fun. Set up the roasting pans, doubling them for stability. Take a cup of stock and a cup of water with a squeeze of tomato paste and heat it, nuke it or not. Divide the liquid between the two pans. By now you’ve noticed a knobby little bit of cabbage that’s left from the steaming, chop it up and divide it between the two pans.
Now set up your work station. Leaves on one side meat in front and empty roasting pans on the other. Go with your dominant hand. Take a leaf of cabbage place it in front of you where it looks like a cup. Trim any veins that look tough with a paring knife. Make a small, reasonably sized ball of the meat mixture. Put it into the leaf. Fold up the bottom left and right sides and top and place it seam side down in the pan. Repeat until done with breathers for beverages. When both pans are filled, fill half-way with stock water combination. Cover with foil. Cook for forty five to fifty minutes or to an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Let them rest a bit.
If you’ve got any questions ask, I’ll try to give my best answer. Suggestion for recipes are welcome. All of the celebrity chefs have a sign-off catchphrase, mine will be “Keep your fingers out from under the knife blade.” Catchy, huh?