Change of pace this week. I originally planned to make chicken karaage (aka: glorious deep fried joy) but I ended up changing my mind while I was shopping. This cabbage casserole recipe has been sitting on my “to-cook” pile for weeks and I figured I should get to it before the Phoenix summer makes eating anything besides ice water a chore. There was a fair amount of prep work for this dish but in the end it boiled down to placing alternating layers of stuffing and blanched cabbage into a pot. The hardest part for me was finding a plate heavy enough to anchor the casserole but small enough to fit inside my pot. I settled on a pot lid with a water filled Pyrex container on top for weight.
The unintentional still life above is the end product of careful cabbage leafing. The cabbage was fantastic and I am glad I picked it up at the Phoenix Public Market earlier in the week. I do not go in for the whole “organic is instantly better because the package says organic” but I do approve of local sourcing when I can.
Recipe from the always awesome JustHungry.com. It is fairly difficult to remove the cabbage leafs without shredding them. I found the easiest thing to do is use a sharp knife to slowly cut through the base of the cabbage as you pull the individual leafs off.
If you have ever made hamburger patties, you have made this filling. Ground meat, some fragrant vegetables, rice for bulk, tofu for lightness, and an egg to bind it all together. I went with the authors suggestion of 50/50 ground pork/beef but next time I will likely try to make it with just turkey. I chopped all the vegetables but you could definitely use a food processor to speed this step up.
Next time I make this dish I will add more vegetables. A couple cloves of garlic would be fantastic, as well as some red peppers and celery.
The sauce is a straightforward combination of chicken broth, tomato paste, bay leaf, thyme, salt and pepper. I would suggest that this is also a prime candidate for a few cloves of garlic.
I did not get any pictures of the actual assembly process because it took about five minutes to complete. Try to think of it as putting the cabbage back together with meat between all the layers. Prior to assembly, the cabbage is blanched until just pliable. I used a strainer to hold the small bits together and a pair of tongs for the larger pieces. To line the pot I started with the small heart pieces first. You are aiming for a roughly dome shape and I found that it is prettiest to place each leaf of cabbage with the stem portion facing down. This helped contribute to the dome shape as well as stabilize the whole mess against the walls of the pot. Once you lay the last layer of cabbage, pour the sauce over the top and make sure it covers the cabbage. I had to add another cup of chicken broth to cover mine.
Here is what the casserole should look like after a couple hours of cooking. Save the broth! It makes for a good soup, either to serve the casserole in or on its own. The casserole was actually very firm when completely cooked (I let it stew on a low simmer for several hours). Extracting the casserole loaf from the pot was a bit of an adventure though. After some intense planning my fiancé and I decided to completely drain all the fluid, invert the pot, and use the lid of the pot to catch the loaf as it slid down. It worked surprisingly well and we were able to catch the loaf, sandwich the serving plate on top, and then flip it back over into its original orientation.
A bread knife works wonders for cutting into the casserole without tearing any of the delicate outer layers.
The finished product was delicious. We were well into our second slice of cabbage pie before we remembered to take pictures. It is supposed to be served in the broth but we found it was delicious with ketchup and sriracha. If you have any questions, I would love to answer them in the comments section!
I would consider making a personal sized version of this recipe in ramekins. I would start by cutting sheets of cabbage to fit the ramekin and then make several layers. Probably more trouble than it is worth but it would certainly look cool.