Tiny baby Frida is out at the park with her Oma, and even tinier baby Max is sleeping, so I’m logged onto the interwebs in an attempt to find a cabbage roll recipe that is so good that it makes me stand up, go into the kitchen, and start chopping onions. (I should mention that the onions in question are the last-of-the-storage-onion variety: papery, often rotten at their core, and, at 1.5 inches in diameter, possessors of a truly unrewarding skin to flesh ratio.) I keep looking up recipes for meatballs and tomato sauce, and thinking that I’ll use them to build my cabbage rolls. And then I think, ‘Hey, when’s the last time I had good meatballs in good tomato sauce and thought, ‘Boy these could really use some overcooked cabbage’?’ Never, that’s when. Here’s my solution: make the best meatballs I can make, make a decent tomato sauce to serve with them, and do something else with the cabbage.
A thing that happens sometimes: you buy someone a present at a fancy store, and maybe you’re a little embarrassed about having spent so much but you think they’ll probably like it, but then you get out of the fancy, good-smelling, tastefully lit store and you realize that this present is not going to seem so nice without the attractive salespeople and the expensive-sounding background music. This present could easily be confused with a plain present bought for a reasonable price at a plain store.
There’s a fantastically aggressive cooking magazine called ‘The Art of Eating’ that combines good writing, thoroughly researched articles, and items of genuine interest with a measure of pretension so profound I’m surprised it allows me the honour of reading it. I love the magazine’s articles about caviar and the best olive oils (the magazine’s tip: they suffer from shipping, so the best olive oils cannot be purchased in the U.S.) (No, I’m not kidding. It actually said that. It’s like telling someone that their baby is ugly: it might be true, but you’re not helping anyone by saying it out loud.) The magazine has an attendant cookbook that features several recipes for snails, a section on hopelessly complicated small-batch charcuterie, and many delicious-sounding, few-ingredient, straightforward recipes for ingredients that I can actually find (oh, yes, I can lay my hands on cultured butter and excellent olive oil and hundreds of kinds of Italian sausages – I live in Europe – but when I get a craving for a Butterfinger I am fucked.)
Here’s the recipe that I will make with my cabbage:
- boil 1 pound of potatoes in unsalted water, drain
- boil 3 pounds of cabbage in salted water until completely tender, drain
- with a food mill or food processor, reduce the cabbage and potatoes to a near-puree
- stir cabbage and potatoes together with 3/4 cup of butter and salt to taste
- serve hot
Sounds awesome, right? No. It sounds like the intern at the Cabbage Council needed something to fill up the monthly newsletter. (Oh, Betsy, that’s ridiculous. You know that newsletter’s quarterly at best.) But imagine the recipe beautifully typeset on heavy paper with 4-color printing, and imagine that the recipe has a French name like Chouée. Sounding better? Now imagine that the recipe doesn’t exhort me to use best-quality butter, it simply assumes that I will. I’m sold!
Here’s my plan.
1. When I buy a present at the fancy store, I will have them wrap it so that the recipient gets at least a little of the fancy fun when they rip into the tastefully beribboned package.
2. I will display my copy of The Art of Eating cookbook so that tonight’s diners can read the Chouée recipe’s elegantly pompous introduction before they dig into their cabbage-and-potatoes.