File this one under “Interesting.” One of the cool things about having a food blog is that it’s a natural conversation-starter. Nearly everyone has an intriguing food anecdote, experience or recipe to share, once they find out we are passionate enough about food to blog about it. When talking to one of Dan’s colleagues at a work event a little while ago, she told me how her niece is currently living in Russia and has had to adjust quite a bit to cooking and eating over there, especially in terms of food availability. Apparently meat is very expensive (and quality can be somewhat sketchy), so they cook and eat a lot of vegetables. In particular, cabbage is abundant and inexpensive there, and they cook with it often. When I heard that one of their favorite dishes is a casserole made with cabbage and carrots, I was intrigued enough to ask for the recipe, especially since I don’t prefer the boiled cabbage that Dan
insists I eat serves with corned beef every St. Patrick’s Day. The dish sounds a bit strange — and I would definitely call it interesting — but we liked it. The cabbage has a mild flavor, the carrots add a bit of sweetness to contrast with the spice from the paprika, and the sauce made with butter, flour, chicken broth, milk and cheese ties it all together well. It may not be the best side dish we’ve ever had, but the fact that there’s a story behind it makes us appreciate this casserole even more. (And it’s a heck of a lot better than plain old boiled cabbage.)
Since we made the casserole as a side for just the two of us, we cut the recipe in half. Start by grating a peeled carrot, using the large-hole side of the grater.
Cut a small head of cabbage in half, then cut out and discard the solid core.
Chop the cabbage leaves into thin strips.
The original recipe calls for dissolving chicken bouillon cubes in water over medium-high heat. We used 2 cups of chicken broth instead, heating it to a boil, then adding the cabbage and carrots.
Cover the pot and simmer until the cabbage and carrots are tender — about 20-30 minutes.
Drain the cabbage mixture, reserving about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Spread the cabbage and carrots in a single layer in a baking dish.
Melt the butter in the now-empty pot over medium heat.
Stir the flour in with the butter until heated through — about 1 minute.
Add about 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking liquid and the milk to the pot and stir to smooth out all the lumps.
Add the cheese to the milk mixture and cook until the cheese melts and the sauce thickens. If the sauce becomes too thick, add a little more milk to thin it out a bit.
Season the cabbage and carrots with salt, pepper and paprika.
Pour the sauce over the cabbage and carrots and stir it all together to coat the veggies.
We went off-recipe and sprinkled some panko breadcrumbs on top to give the finished dish a bit of crunch.
Bake the casserole in the oven preheated to 350 degrees until the breadcrumbs begin to brown and the mixture gets hot and bubbly — about 20-30 minutes.
We served the cabbage with corned beef and boiled red potatoes (and a great deal of respect for people who come up with innovative and interesting recipes that make the most of limited food resources.)