Friday, March 19, 2010

Let Them Eat Cabbage

Tuesday evening, my son, on home leave from Ethiopia, asked "what are we doing for St. Patrick's Day". He does hold dual Irish and US citizenship as do I but we have never celebrated St. P day - just don't come from the shamrock waving genetic pool.

Fearful of tarnishing my Mother Badge I agreed to make corned beef and cabbage. A small family dinner escalated and presto - I'm cooking for thirteen.

My daughter announced she had a corned beef brisket in her freezer and "no idea" how to cook it so that was delivered to my house. Since the oven was going to be on I went for broke and bought two more briskets. I've cooked at the most corned beef three times in the past but I figured using the same method I use for a regular brisket wouldn't hurt. Couldn't be more simple - pop the briskets into oven proof baking dishes, pour in a can of Guinness or other dark beer, cover tightly with foil and cook at 350F for two hours, lower heat to 300F and let cook an additional four hours. Two were devoured at dinner, the third I wrapped and pressed for sandwiches later in the week.

Potatoes - the lifeline (literally) of the Irish peasant for decades got two treatments. Tiny marble- sized new ones were steamed then tossed with olive oil, sea salt and freshly chopped Italian parsley. The red ones I boiled and turned into Colcannon - sinful but a once a decade treat!

Surprise of the evening was the gobbling up of the cabbage with cries of "more" from even card-carrying disparagers of that humble vegetable. I cooked it two ways. Both involve shredding the cabbage (use the shredding blade on a food processor or a very sharp knife). First is a method I've used for years - pile the lovely shreds of cabbage into a steamer, sprinkle with a little freshly ground nutmeg, black pepper and a sprinkle of sugar. Steam just a few minutes until crisp but nowhere near soggy. Toss to blend the flavors. Second method which was definitely a pinch-hitting 'gees the steamer is full what do I do with the rest of this cabbage' inspiration was the all time hit of the evening.

Sauteed Spring Cabbage with Pancetta
For six

1/2 head of firm, young cabbage shredded - you'll have about 8 cups
2 ozs (four slices) of Pancetta
2 TBS Olive oil
Coarsely ground black pepper
Sea salt
1 Cup dry white wine
Large, deep saute pan with a lid

Warm the olive oil in the saute pan, add pancetta and cook until lightly crisped. Keep it moving so that it doesn't burn or stick to the pan.
Add the cabbage to the pan, toss to coat with the oil and pancetta. Add the wine. Put the lid on and cook about three minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. Take the lid off - stir, bring to a rapid boil and reduce the wine by 1/2 or more - will take about 2 minutes, season with the salt and pepper. Do not over cook. Serve and watch them ask for more!
You can substitute bacon but I'd be careful of over-salting. Consensus at my house was "best cabbage ever", and "this will be great with grilled sausage".

Now I'm hungry! Today I'm making Mole Sauce (no, Mexican, not furry creature) and Puerco Avodava - both long-simmering dishes that will be rewarmed for a party tomorrow night.

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