Musing with Max

Musing with Max

March 18, 2012

Cabbage Patch

In my first real job as an admin for a loan company we had regional supervisors that would visit each office about once a month for a couple of days--to do what I don't know--spy I guess. Our regional supervisor went by the interesting name of Mr. Lovely. He looked a little bit like Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor with a severe military haircut and without the funny walk, he was from somewhere in the South complete with the accent and Bible belt conservatism. He was a strict disciplinarian, straighter than straight arrow who smoked three packs of Salems a day (in those days you could smoke in the office) and drank Cuban coffee by the glassful--several times a day. I guess you could say he was wound a tad tight. One St. Patrick's day he was scheduled in our office and walked in wearing a plaid green polyester suit, a light green shirt, a striped green and white tie with shamrocks, and green socks. All in non-complimentary shades. His shoes were brown, thank goodness. I took one look at this vision as he marched in and said, "Mr. Lovely, you look like a cabbage." My boss, who was terrified of him, almost died. He laughed. What my boss didn't understand was that unlike 350 pound 46 year old men, cute 19 year old girls can get away with everything; and at least I didn't call him a leprechaun. That was probably the only time I had mentioned cabbage and would for a long time to come. Until last year when for some inexplicable reason I became obsessed with cabbage. So all Summer long I made coleslaw.
My coleslaw

Thinly slice some red and green cabbage, the amount depends on how much you want to make.
Mix a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise with some vinegar, add a big pinch of sugar, salt & pepper. Mix well, add to cabbage and stir until the cabbage is coated with the dressing.

Then I started making it with pasta.

Spaghetti with Cabbage, Bacon & Onions

4 slices of bacon, cut into thin slices, one inch in length
2 cups of thinly sliced cabbage
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
salt & pepper
8 oz. spaghetti
Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and saute until it starts to color but is still soft. Add the cabbage and onions and continue sauteing, stirring on and off, until the onions and cabbage are soft and translucent making sure not to overcook the bacon. Add salt & pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to the boil and cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain in a colander and add the spaghetti to the skillet with the cabbage mix. Lower the heat and stir until the spaghetti is incorporate into the sauce. Serve topping with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

I made this so much that at one point Frank asked me to stop.

So this year when St. Patrick's Day was coming around I thought I would like to make something traditional (which I never have) and of course corned beef and cabbage was the first thing that popped into my head. But with apologies to my Gaelic friends, the penchant of Irish cooking to boil the heck out of everything doesn't really grab me and the thought of my house smelling for days of the aroma of cabbage boiling for hours didn't do much for me either. So I opted for

Stuffed Cabbage-adapted from Le Cordon Bleu at Home
serves 6

1 head of green cabbage, preferably Savoy
White Vinegar

2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
14 ounces pork sausage meat
1 1/2 cups fresh white breadcrumbs
Salt & freshly ground pepper
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 egg

3 slices of bacon
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 medium carrots, diced fine
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 stalk celery, diced fine
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup veal stock, or chicken stock
Bouquet Garni

unsalted butter for parchment paper

Separate the cabbage leaves.

Cut out the hard central vein from each leaf. Add a little vinegar to a container of cold water and rinse the leaves well.

Bring a large saucepan of cold salted water to a boil. Add 6 to 7 cabbage leaves and blanch until tender, 3 to 8 minutes. Refresh the leaves under cold running water; drain. Repeat to blanch all leaves. Reserve 6 or 7 of the largest and greener leaves and spread them out on a towel to dry.

Squeeze out the remaining leaves by hand and set aside.

Prepare the stuffing: Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender but not colored. Add the garlic and sausage meat and cook stirring frequently, for 5 minutes without browning. Transfer to a bowl, add the breadcrumbs and mix well. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Add the nutmeg, parsley and egg and mix thoroughly.

Stuff the cabbage: On a flat work surface, arrange 4 or 5 of the reserved leaves in a circle, overlapping them slightly. Place 4 or 5 of the smaller leaves over the center of the circle. Spread 1/4 of the stuffing over the smaller leaves. Add another layer of cabbage and then a second quarter of the stuffing, and continue alternating layers until all of the smaller cabbage leaves and stuffing have been used.
Cover the final layer of stuffing with the remaining large leaves. Fold the outer leaves in toward the center to reshape the head of cabbage. Wrap with the bacon and overlap the ends. Tie with kitchen twine to secure the bacon, and then cross the twine over and under the cabbage two or three times to hold the shape of the head. Do not tie too tightly or the cabbage will deform while cooking.

Preheat oven to 425F.
Heat the butter in a casserole over medium heat. Ad the vegetables and cook until soft but not colored, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil, cook 2 minutes. Add the stock and bouquet garni. Place the stuffed cabbage in the center of the bed of vegetables. Cover with a round of buttered parchment paper and lid. Transfer to the oven and cook, basting from time to time, until a knife inserted in the center comes out hot. 50 to 60 minutes.

To serve, transfer the cabbage to a platter. Remove the twine and bacon. Strain the cooking liquid into a saucepan and arrange the chopped vegetables around the cabbage. Skim the fat from the cooking liquid and reduce by half over medium heat. Pour a little sauce over the cabbage, slice and serve.
full disclosure: I used ground beef because I didn't have sausage and didn't feel like going out to get any. I also didn't do anything with the cooking liquid other than pour it over the cabbage.

OK, maybe this is not very Irish but I think it'll become our tradition.

And how did Max wear the green?

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the Sun shine bright upon your face,
The rain falls soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

May God be with you and bless you:
May you see your children's children.
May you be poor in misfortune,
Rich in blessings.
May you know nothing but happiness
From this day forward.

May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the warm rays of sun fall upon your home
And may the hand of a friend always be near.

May green be the grass you walk on,
May blue be the skies above you,
May pure be the joys that surround you,
May true be the hearts that love you.

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