Saturday, December 14, 2013

Stuffed cabbage rolls with mushroom sauce


December’s Daring Cooks’ Challenge had us on a roll! Olga from challenged us to make stuffed cabbage rolls using her Ukrainian heritage to inspire us. Filled with meat, fish or vegetables, flexibility and creativity were the name of the game to get us rolling!

This was a timely challenge for us. In the week before the challenge was published, we had remarked to each other that the cabbages in our local farmers’ market looked particularly good, so on our weekly grocery shopping expedition we picked one up. We were therefore delighted to find that the December challenge was to make stuffed cabbage rolls! We stuck with the recipe that we had planned to use (outlined below), but were grateful for one of the tips in Olga’s challenge instructions, namely boiling the cabbage whole and separating the leaves in situ. In the past, we used to separate – or rather, try to separate - the uncooked leaves, and often the assembly of stuffed cabbage rolls was more of an exercise in patching together torn pieces of cabbage rather than wrapping up the filling. By pre-cooking the whole cabbage, the leaves separate out nicely and we also appreciated how the core remained intact – we used this in a second recipe during the week.

Here, then, is our stuffed cabbage recipe:

For the cabbage and filling:IMG_1390

1 green cabbage
2/3 lb ground turkey
1/4 cup uncooked white rice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 teaspoons caraway seeds        
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
Salt and pepper to taste           

Mix all the ingredients to form a meat/rice stuffing mixture. Bring a pot of water to the boil (the pot needs to be big enough to hold the cabbage!) Simmer the cabbage, core facing up on low heat for about 5 minutes, until the leaves can be easily separated from each other. It’s easiest to stick a large fork in the core while you’re doing this…

Wrap the stuffing up inside neat parcels of cabbage, and place in a baking dish:


For the sauce:

1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 lb mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 oz butter
1 oz flour
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the onion in the olive oil over medium heat until soft. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until they give off their liquid and get soft.

Make a roux with the butter and flour, then gradually mix in the milk to make a white sauce. Add the sour cream and season to taste.

To assemble, pour the sauce over the cabbage rolls, cover with foil and bake at 375 F for ~1 hour.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Turkey Ballotine

Encouraged by our success in the Daring Cooks ballotine challenge back in April this year, we decided to attempt a ballotine of Turkey for Thanksgiving. It was a bit of a gamble: we were expecting guests, and although they were all family or friends who would be forgiving of a culinary debacle, we obviously wanted the day to go well. Thankfully (hah!), with a little help from Jaques Pepin’s excellent Youtube video we were able to remove the turkey bones without tears (either pronunciation/definition works – neither ripping nor sobbing was involved…)
Here, then, is a summary of our Turkey Ballotine adventure. The stuffing is made of parsley and lemon, a classic combination. The following quantities prepared enough stuffing for our 15lb bird: it can be scaled down according to the size of your fowl, though larger birds will still only need this quantity as their cavities do not get much larger than those of a 15lb bird.

Parsley and Lemon Stuffing

12oz fresh breadcrumbs
Grated zest of 3 lemons
3/4 cup chopped parsley
6oz melted butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix the breadcrumbs, lemon zest and parsley in a food processor, and season to taste. Mix in the melted butter with a fork, then mix in the eggs. (We prepared everything in advance except for the egg, which was added just before stuffing the bird)
1. Our beautiful Diestel turkey (from Guerra’s of San Francisco, of course). We rubbed the skin with salt the previous day and air dried it in the refrigerator overnight, then rinsed off the salt before making the ballotine:
2. Deboned and ready for stuffing! AS Jacques Pepin puts it, we have rearranged Mother Nature – the turkey tenderloins fit nicely in the gap between the breasts and the legs:
3. With stuffing in place:
4. Ready for the oven – we rubbed some herb oil over the skin before roasting at 350 °F for about 2 hours. We made a little platform from potatoes and carrots, so that the turkey wouldn’t sit in its fat/juices.
5. Et voila! The rendered fat was used to make the roux for our gravy, and the pan juices made a wonderful natural gravy browning.
The carved bird can be seen at the top of this post. Thanks to Jeff, Myint, Phil, Deepa, Luke and Jack for sharing Thanksgiving with us this year!