Of Cabbage Rolls and Inspiration

Culinary touchstones inspire new creations. Savoy cabbage in the crisper drawer. Excess stuffing from a stuffed mushroom cap appetizer. A pork tenderloin. The memory of stuffed cabbage rolls.

Cabbage leafs boiled and then filled with a small serving of minced meats and seasonings exist in countless cultures across the globe. The Polish immigrants to Chicago called these Golabki, “little pigeons” or “little doves”. We could have simply placed a tablespoon or two of our mushroom stuffing and rice in the par-boiled cabbage, rolled up the cute little packages and baked them into delicious morsels. But Great Lakes Cuisine is not just tradition. It’s also about asking – Where else can we take this?

Here is where we took this. Instead of stuffing the cabbage leafs, we stuffed pork tenderloin with the mushroom mixture. Served the roasted pork pinwheels on a bed of red rice with chèvre and dried mushrooms. We oven roasted the cabbage into flaky, nutty chips with flavors slightly reminiscent of rye bread and concentrated cabbage.

Cabbage Rolls3

The oven dried greens we have done before with kale and chard. Taking advantage of an oven set to 250°, this time we also dried radicchio, endive, and even red cabbage sauerkraut. The radicchio was uninspiring, largely flavorless and the red color faded to brown. The endive was bitter. The red cabbage sauerkraut had caramelized, but still retained a lovely sour tang.

The dish is earthy and nutty, but misses a bit of the “green” look and flavor of stewed cabbage, so we brought a dash of green to the plate with pureed pea shoots.

Golabki-inspired Stuffed Pork

1 pork tenderloin (apprx. 12 oz.)
2 Tbs. butter

¼ lb. bulk pork sausage
4 oz. cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
3 oz. pancetta, diced small
1 piece of crustless bread
½ cup milk or cream
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. salt
1 medium egg, whisked

2 Tbs. olive oil
2 cups red rice
3 cups beef broth
1 oz dried cremini mushroom
3 Tbs. butter
5 oz chèvre

1 head savoy cabbage
1 cup pea shoots, plus ½ cup addl. for garnish
1 shallot, diced
½ cup sweet white wine
1 cup water
1 Tbs. olive oil
Salt

In advance: Heat oven to 250°. Separate the cabbage into individual leafs, remove the thick stem of the leaf, lay in a single layer on a baking sheet, and roast for 2 to 3 hours or until just shattering crisp. Set aside. They’ll look something like the plate pictured above.

 

Place the bread in a small bowl and top with milk or cream, allow it to absorb completely, approximately 30 minutes. Place the sausage, copped mushrooms, pancetta, soaked bread, oregano, basil, salt and whisked egg in mixing bowl and combine well.
Butterfly the pork tenderloin (slice along the length, but not entirely through) and lay it open on the cutting board. Cover with a gallon plastic bag (works better than plastic wrap) and pound out until pork loin is approximately ½ inch think. Layer the stuffing own the middle of the pork, roll, and tie with butcher thread. Chill stuffed tenderloin until 1 hour before cooking. The result should be something like this:

Cabbage Rolls1
Soak the dried mushrooms in 1 cup of hot beef broth, let rest for 30 minutes, then drain and reserve liquid. Chop mushroom and onion. Heat olive oil over medium heat in large stock pot, add mushrooms and onion, and cook until onions are translucent. Add rice to pan and toss to coat. Add remaining beef broth and strained reserved liquid. Cook for 40 minutes or until tender. Stir in butter and chèvre.

While rice cooks, heat water and wine in a small saucepan until boiling. Add diced shallot and simmer for 30 minutes. Return to a boil and add pea shoots, cook for 2 minutes pressing pea shoots down into boiling water. Remove and immediately add enough ice to chill the mixture quickly, about 3 cups. Strain and remove ice. Puree the shallots and pea shoots in a food processor with olive oil until smooth. Set aside.

While rice cooks, heat oven to 450° and heat butter in large-oven proof skillet over high heat. Sear stuffed pork on all sides and place in oven. Roast for 20 minutes or until center reaches 160°, cover and let rest 5 minutes.

To plate: scoop of mushroom red rice, topped with slice of stuffed pork tenderloin. Dot the edges with pea shoot puree and scatter cabbage leaves. In the picture below we also added dots of the red cabbage sauerkraut, which we pulverized and then incorporated into beef gravy.

Cabbage Rolls4

 

An alternative plating: the next day we rolled the cold slices of pork in a thin coating of the red cabbage sauerkraut purée, then rolled them in crushed cabbage leaves. Yes, this a lot of steps, but in the end it was more about process than a recipe. It was more about ideas, approaches, experiments. This was all about tradition as inspiration.

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