cabbage

Test Kitchen, Round 1

When the theme for this year’s Scarlet Apron Cooking Challenge at War Practice was announced, I was struck with inspiration: “Modern family dinners presented in a medieval fashion.” All entries on the table had to be from roughly the same time period and within reasonable cultural distance. Somehow, modern-traditional Polish dinners (without tomatoes and potatoes, of course) came to mind: stuffed cabbage rolls, rice or noodles, and mushrooms of some sort. I began researching and found what I wanted (mostly) within two books: Ouverture de Cuisine (1604 France) and The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (1570 Italy). Not the closest, per se, but close enough — especially as I didn’t end up entering the competition anyway due to logistics. But I couldn’t get this menu out of my mind, so I planned a test kitchen night and had some of my favorite guinea pigs friends over.

First Remove
Stuffed Eggs
Salad
Cream of Mushroom Soup

Second Remove
Stuffed Cabbage
Rice

Third Remove
White Roman Tart

Stuffed Cabbages

Next up is stuffed cabbages from Ouverture de Cuisine!

I initially went searching for this recipe when this year’s Scarlet Apron Cooking Challenge theme was announced — modern family dinners presented in a medieval fashion. The first thing that came to mind was a traditional Polish dinner: stuffed cabbage rolls, noodles or rice, and mushrooms of some sort. My research lead me to Ouverture de Cuisine and The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi, but I was struck with inspiration while reading. While Scappi’s cookbook did indeed have cabbage rolls, why in the world should I stop there when both cookbooks had recipes for whole stuffed cabbages?

To make a stuffed cabbage.

Take a red cabbage that is not too large, & put it to boil whole sweetly, & leave it so a long time that you can open the leaves the one behind the other, while the leaves of the cabbage are large like a fist, cut that out, & put chopped meat therein that it will be arrayed like the other meats with eggs & spices, & then layer the cabbage with the leaves all around, that it will be well bound, & put it to cook, sausages with, or that which you want.

Though Scappi is specific about boiling his stuffed cabbages in meat broth or water, de Casteau is more vague. I took the opportunity to boil it as I prefer: in beef broth, red wine, apple cider vinegar, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger. For the first boil, I let it go for about 20-30min at a full boil while I prepared a meat mixture of ground beef, garlic, and onions with sage, cinnamon, salt, and pepper, bound after cooling with egg. This meat mixture is the base of my meatballs, and I figured would be suitable for a trial run of this cabbage.

And then the fun began..

Peeling the outer layers was tricky at first, but the closer I got to the core, the cooler the cabbage became, and I was very surprised that it was still cold at the center. I carefully cut the heart of the cabbage out, then replaced it with a large handful of ground beef mixture.

After folding the first layer of leaves back over it, I put in another layer of meat, folded the next layer on, and put in the last layer of beef before folding the rest of the leaves back. I wrapped the whole cabbage in twine, then set it back to boiling for another 20-30 min in the wine and vinegar that I’d refreshed with a bit more of all ingredients.

The result was beautiful and tasty. It was a bit of a pain to cut and serve, so perhaps decorative pennants on skewers may be part of the serving plan next time.