Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I Ate It Before I Could Even Take a Picture! (And it had cabbage in it!!!!)

Note: This is not my picture. I, along with the rest of my family, ate mine up too quickly to even think of getting the camera to snap a shot. Besides, this is made from a much more dressed up version of the recipe. Ours was simpler, and looked simpler too. It was not nearly as colorful, but plenty tasty and relatively nutrient-dense for a comfort food. The picture came from:

CSA Day One Report

One thing I learned from my new book, Greens, Glorious Greens is that cabbage keeps longer than most other leafy vegetables. If it hasn't been sliced (which causes vitamin C loss anyway), it keeps for at least four weeks in the fridge. Apparently some gardeners are even able to store some cabbage away for use in the winter. Who knew?!

Because cabbage is the longest lasting out of the veggies we received yesterday, I probably should have tried to cook with the others first. But I found a tempting recipe in the book for cabbage, and it served as too much of a draw. It was for a milkless (???!) version of colcannon. I went online and dug around and found a great variety of colcannon recipes.

Colcannon is an Irish dish that is basically, when it comes down to it, mashed potatoes with sauteed cabbage or kale. Though the version in the book is without milk, many descriptions of the dish include milk as a defining feature of the dish. I found only a handful of recipes for colcannon with milk alternatives, ranging from sour cream to a thick broth. That said, some recipes called for cooking the cabbage in the milk while most involved putting the milk in the mashed potatoes as you might usually. I opted for the latter because it was a much more common recipe and also because I wanted to make absolutely sure I didn't have soggy cabbage on my hands.

The potato most recipes recommended was the yukon gold. I did red potatoes instead because that is what I had on hand. It was very flavorful and I have no regrets at all. In fact, I'd recommend them.

I followed the common recipe using butter for sauteeing the cabbage. Thank goodness! This would have been a very different dish with my usual olive oil sautee. Butter was the right choice for this dish. Along with the cabbage, I also sauteed thinly diced yellow onions. No recipes recommended this, to my recollection, though a few suggested slicing in some chives. I rather liked the diced onions (about 3/4 of an onion), and dare I say they made the dish complete. Not sure I would have liked it without the onion, actually.

For the cabbage, I did not core it as is recommended, in case we wanted to store it for a while for other uses. Instead, I just pulled off a number of leaves, including some of the stiffer inner leaves. I sliced these thinly-- and in some cases chopped them for smaller peices as well-- fearful that the cabbage would overwhelm the dish (it did not). The trick is to sautee these on medium heat just for a few minutes. My onions had not yet started to turn brown. The idea is that the cabbage should add a nice, mild flavored crunch to the dish rather than being a smelly overcooked mess.

I chose a recipe without any spices other than salt and pepper. I am not sure whether having more or fewer spices is more traditional, but because of the move I have few spices on hand right now. I decided to keep it simple. I did not regret this either. If I had expected this dish to be something unlike mashed potatoes, I would have needed to opt for a more spiced version. But I went into this thinking I was going to have something like "enhanced mashed potatoes," and thus the salt and pepper was a perfect, simple pair of spices.

Speaking of treating this dish like a special type of mashed potatoes, it is even simpler to make than the recipes read. Basically, all one needs to do is to make some mashed potatoes (in my opinion, hand mashed was especially tasty), and sautee some green cabbage (or another cabbage, or kale) lightly at the same time. Then mix. The most time consuming part truly was hunting down the right recipe.

In the future, I think I might try making this as a layered dish, rather than mixing the cabbage and onions in with the mashed potatoes. This would better preserve the crunch (though there definitely was still a crunch in some of the cabbage, even after mixing), and it would make the dish a less challenging sensory experience (when there isn't crunch, getting a peice of floppy green stuff in your mashed potatoes may be tasty but can take a lot of adjustment). I also understand that if mixed without any milk at all, the dish can be formed into patties and fried like a pancake for a breakfast version. That sounds yummy too.

I think using this basic green cabage was perfect (might it be "spring cabbage"??). The taste was mild but sweet, there was little if any odor, and the color made me envision making it as a St. Patricks Day dish. By the way, the color holds strong through the sauteeing.

I realized later I could have thrown in some of the parsley for another dimmension for the dish, but I am glad I tried a very simple version first to really get to know the basic dish before begining to experiment. It is truly an ultimate comfort food.

I would be happy to finish off this whole head of cabbage in this same manner. The kids liked it too. M. didn't want any of the bigger chunks of cabbage or onion, but ate a few bites with smaller bits in there. K. ate the whole thing right up, no second thoughts! I like the idea of having some especially Irish food in our diets. Up until now, I thought the Irish diet was mostly meat, meat, and more meat, with a few potatoes and some cabbage thrown in on the side. I had no idea there was anything we'd particularly take a liking to, and I had no idea I could take this much joy in cabbage. This is an ode to the Irish side!

There is a video here where you can see the dish being made. Enjoy!


sf said...

I think a layered version sounds really good! And the "pancakes". But to me, this way seemed fine too.
Great food critic report!

Sara said...

Sounds yummy, and I'll have to try it since I love to honor my irish side. :)

It also sounds like a dish I tried recently from the cookbook "unplugged kitchen". The recipe I tried is for mashed potatoes with watercress steamed and mixed in, with a note that you can do this with any bitter green. I tried it with some greens from my CSA that I couldn't identify, and it came out nice.

So maybe you can experiment with this if you like the basic concept.