Sunday, October 23, 2011
I missed the Polish festival, didn't I? Dang. Those ladies know how to make some serious grub. Plus, there are people running around in costumes at events like that, and I'm always in favor of playing dress-up.
But I missed the cabbage rolls! Drat and drat. Cabbage rolls are a thing I have loved for many years. Dad used to make them filled with beef and rice. I think he topped them with a lot of ketchup, which may have influenced my liking for them; be that as it may, I start hankering for them in the fall. There is no way I'm going to fiddle around with scalded cabbage leaves and so on for hours on end, so I came up with this stew instead. It has the earthy/savory/sweet/sour flavor combination of a really good cabbage roll, without all the fussing. Plus, it isn't as greasy as the traditional ground beef or pork things.
2 chicken thighs
a small can of tomato sauce
about 4 cups water
1 teaspoon chicken broth concentrate
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dry marjoram
a shake of onion powder
2 or 3 allspice berries
3/4 lb cabbage
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Take the first 5 ingredients and put them in a large, heavy, pot, one that has a good lid. Bring them to a slight boil, and then keep it that way, covered, until the chicken shreds easily.This could take a while. Assume at least half an hour, maybe longer, if you use frozen chicken like I do. Stir it from time to time until you can smash the meat with the back of a spoon. About half the water should have cooked out by this time.
Coarsely chop the cabbage and add it along with the allspice, marjoram and onion powder. Simmer until the cabbage is very tender, which could take another half hour. You can turn the heat up a bit, but make sure the pot doesn't go dry. Add the lemon juice, simmer for a few more minutes, taste for salt, and serve with some fresh thyme leaves on top. I'm going to eat it with potatoes, but you could serve it over rice, which would approximate the ingredients of a cabbage roll.
1. You could use any can of plain tomato something. Sauce is what I had, but crushed, diced, pureed, any old tomatoes would work. You just have to taste the stew to see if it has the right amount of salt.
2. You can use oregano if you don't have marjoram, but use a little less of it. Marjoram is sweeter, and oregano is more peppery.
3. Don't rush it. The most important ingredient in stew is time. Enough time to break the collagen in the meat down into gelatin, for the texture. Enough time for the cabbage starches to begin to convert to sugars, and for the acids in the tomatoes to mellow out a bit.
4. The reason you want to use whole allspice berries is so that you can fish them back out when you have flavored the stew as much as you like it.
5. Do use thighs. You need a little fat in it to help carry the oil-soluble flavor molecules, as well as to make you feel full after a reasonable portion.