Stuffed Cabbage – Kicked Up a Notch
Otherwise known as “Savoy cabbage leaves stuffed with wild rice, porcini mushrooms and Italian aromatic vegetables in a Sauce Aurore.” Snooty, no? In January I made my first Polish stuffed cabbage and it was very tasty but this time I wanted to try something a little more elegant.
Here’s the recipe:
10 large outer cabbage leaves
1 cup Minnesota wild rice (boiled in 3 cups salted water for 50 minutes) Why not do this the day ahead?
1 cup dried porcini mushrooms not packed at all: just whatever roughly fits in.
2 cups hot tap water
2 tbsps fresh rosemary
10 fresh sage leaves
2 carrots peeled
2 ribs celery plus leaves
1 large yellow onion
1 large garlic clove
4 ozs pancetta or bacon (semi frozen)
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp butter
2-3 tbsps flour
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp extra butter for dotting the top of the cabbage parcels
Prep the cabbage and porcini mushrooms: Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Cover the dried porcinis with the hot water and set aside for 30 minutes to soak and soften. Meanwhile, blanch the cabbage leaves in boiling water for about 10 minutes until they are just soft and pliable. Remove from the pot, let cool, cut out the thick center rib and set aside.
Make the “battuto” (combo of aromatic veggies finely chopped): Place the rosemary, sage, onion, carrots, celery, garlic and pancetta/bacon in a food processor, and process to a rough battuto, that is, not a smooth paste but teeny-tiny pieces. It helps if the pancetta/bacon is semi frozen – it will be more easily cut up. Cook the paste in the olive oil over medium heat for about 7 minutes until it has released its moisture and begins to genuinely fry (the rendering bacon fat helps this out). While this is cooking, remove the porcinis from their soaking liquid being careful to rub off any sand and add them to the vegetable battuto. Strain the soaking liquid (which at this point should be a beautiful dark brown) through a strainer lined with paper toweling. Add the cooked, cooled wild rice to the vegetables and salt and pepper to taste. Add the eggs and mix to incorporate. Separate the vegetable-rice mixture into 10 equal portions. Place each portion into each cabbage leaf and roll like a burrito. Place them snugly together in one layer in an ovenproof dish.
Now make the Sauce Aurore: First make a roux with the butter and flour: Melt the butter in a small saucepan then add the flour. Fry the mixture for several minutes stirring until it is a bubbly, yellow-tan paste. (It will be a liquidy paste if you choose to add 2 tbsps of flour and a crumbly paste if you choose to add 3) Now you have a roux. Then add the porcini soaking liquid and whisk like crazy to incorporate the roux with the liquid. Make sure to scrape the inner edges of the pan to get all the roux incorporated. Bring the sauce back to the boil and cook for another 2 minutes. When it thickens to the consistency of custard sauce you have a sauce velouté. Add the tomato paste and voilá, you’ve got sauce aurore. It should be nice and pinkish. Pour this around the cabbage parcels so that you have green islands floating in a pink sea. Dot tops of cabbage parcels with bits of butter (to keep them moist while in the oven) and bake for 45 minutes.