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Cabbage


Anna Blume
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I have half of a huge green cabbage left from a trip to the farmer's market a couple of weeks ago.

Still in good shape, but since it's cut, I figure I need to cook the rest of it pretty soon.

Currently thinking about making:

-stuffed cabbage if any of the half-leaves are big enough to roll up

-pan au chou (custardy gratin)

-tortelli with cabbage filling

Two questions since I rarely buy this vegetable:

1) If I decide to make either/both of the first two dishes mentioned above, what do I serve with it? The first, in particular, is such a one dish meal (meat, rice, green veg, tomato sauce...), I can't think of an appropriate side dish. Carrots? Beets?

2) Any other recommendations welcome, besides a corned beef dinner.

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My current favorite use for savoy cabbage (and I imagine any variety will do) is to chop (not at all finely) and saute gently, almost "confiting" it in the best olive oil you can get your hands on and give it a very healthy grind of pepper and salt and serve with pork. Very simple and very delicious.

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A favorite old comfort food: sautee chopped apple and onion in butter; when soft add shredded cabbage and cook until just tender; season with salt, pepper, and poppy seeds; toss with buttered egg noodles. Great side dish for braised or roasted meats, or great main dish when Mr P is travelling.

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In an attempt to replicate some wonderful braised cabbage I was served at Palena, I poached wedges of cabbage in chicken stock with onion until very tender. This made a terrific side with pork and potatoes.

A very simple Indian dish is to fry a tsp. of black mustard seeds in peanut oil until the seeds pop. Then add finely shredded cabbage and some salt, stir fry for a bit and then squeeze on some fresh lemon juice, lower the heat and cover for a few minutes. The cabbage should still have a bit of crunch to it when you serve it--which can be either hot or at room temp.

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Actually, truffles find their way into cabbage dishes all the time. Somewhere in my mind -- but not in any of the cookbooks I glanced through, though I know it's on that shelf somewhere, dammit -- is a compelling photograph of steamed cabbage leaf encompassing a farce of some sort, the outline of truffle slices clearly visible against the leaf.

Since I can't find that recipe, I offer another suggestion: When Mrs B. isn't sauteeing up the savoy, I like to make what is essentially a warm slaw, with cabbage, onion and apple warmed merrily together in the company of meat stock and vinegar. When the food police aren't looking, toss in a generous pinch or five of sugar. I like a little crunch left, but find that cabbage is more resilient than expected, and thus hard to overcook. Nonetheless, I give the onions a few minute's head start. Goes well with pork of virtually any variety, though I'll wager that sausage would be an inspired pairing.

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Still in good shape, but since it's cut, I figure I need to cook the rest of it pretty soon.
You need to cook it for New Year's Day dinner, in order to ensure good fortune in the coming year. Sauteed in olive oil is good, but needs onions. Cook it down with the lid on and call it "smothered."

Also, black eyed peas. Make some Hopping John with a side of smothered cabbage and you've got a dinner fit for the Gods, if your particular Food Gods happen to be Southern.

Greens are for folding money, and black eyed peas are for luck.

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Thank you, everyone, for the ideas.

Mrs. B. and others who suggest sautéing cabbage in olive oil until it melts speak to my definite preferences. That's what I did with the half that is no longer in the fridge, following Romagnan tradition by adding tons of garlic. Leftovers acquire an even stronger garlic flavor (i.e. instead of being merely sweet as the dish is the first night) and are wonderful with fresh tagliatelle; I added a little cream.

* * *

Since there are 2 3/4 lbs. left, I'm going with the pain au chou (Deborah Madison's "Cabbage Gratin" which is pastry-free) first with a lemon-based or mushroom sauce, roasted winter squash and a lentil pilaf---or mushroom stew and polenta. If I went with a tomato-based sauce, perhaps chickpea fries since I have a jar of chickpea flour in the freezer.

Madison also has a recipe for panade which would incorporate broth as Zora recommends.

No truffles in the house, alas, but since I was not raised on stuffed cabbage and have never made it before, I just might try a jazzier filling than the one in the CC's NYT cookbook.

Whatever I do, I'll make one dish today, Ilaine, and hope that any old bean will do in a pinch since I didn't buy black-eyed peas this time around.

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Mmmm. Cabbage! One of my favorite winter meals is this little one-pot wonder:

In a dutch oven, crisp up a piece or two of diced bacon and keep the crisped up pieces for garnish. Depending on the amount of fat in the pot, either drain or add bit of olive oil and brown up some chicken parts. Take out the chicken and add sliced onions, garlic, good-quality paprika, salt/pepper, and a half to a whole head of coarsely sliced cabbage. Saute for a few minutes, put the chicken pieces on top, and add a bit of liquid and braise until the chicken is cooked through and the cabbage is tender. The smokyness of the bacon and paprika really bring out the sweet notes in the cabbage. Serve with crusty bread to sop up the pan juices.

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