14 July 2009


Credit where it's due; this was inspired by Escalloped Cabbage from The Pioneer Woman Cooks!

The finished dish at PWC looks really good. And I do understand that when your husband's grandmother gives you a recipe, it's your responsibility to praise said recipe to the skies and keep whatever misgivings you may have about the finished product or the ingredients list to yourself. Since it's not my husband's grandmother's recipe, I can admit that I did kind of choke on the jar of Cheez Wiz and can of creamed soup component. Perhaps that makes me a snob, but what the recipe really says to me is 'I don't want to make a cheese sauce from scratch.'

Well, many people don't. Heck, most of the time I don't, at least not on a weeknight. But there is nothing inherently difficult or magical about a roux. It is nothing more than butter and flour mixed with a little attention and time. It's true that you can't just dump everything in and have it come out right, and that you have to watch it like a hawk to be sure it doesn't burn, but there is no sorcery involved. So there is no reason, when time is available, not to make your cheese sauce from scratch.

Other significant changes: a layer of potatoes and a sprinkling of chopped ham to round this out into a full meal. The Viking does not believe a meal is a meal without meat. If you opt to leave out the ham, you may wish to add some salt to the cheese sauce. I didn't use any paprika in the seasonings, mostly because I forgot about it and reverted to my default white pepper and nutmeg combination.

This is, I think, more a winter dish than a summer one, or at least I am not eager to make it on a hot day in July again. It is warm and filling and inexpensive, it reheats well, and it is really, really, good.

Cabbage Potato Gratin

Cabbage and Potato Gratin (serves 6-8 as a main dish)

1 small head cabbage
4 medium potatoes

half a large onion, diced
2 tbs butter (plus extra for the pan)
2 tbs flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup half and half (or whole milk, or cream)
4 oz cheddar cheese, grated (plus extra for sprinkling)
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg

4 oz ham (or bacon or pancetta), diced (optional)
1 poblano chile, roasted, seeded, and diced (used because I had a bunch of these in my freezer. Jalapenos or other green chiles would work fine)

Butter a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Preheat oven to 350 F.

Slice the potatoes about 1/4" inch thick, and soak them in a bowl of water for 30 minutes or so. Drain and tile the bottom of the pan with the slices. Dot with butter.

Meanwhile, strip off the outer leaves of the cabbage and divide it into 6-8 wedges. Parboil these in a pot of boiling salted water for about 5-7 minutes, then drain and arrange the cabbage wedges over the potato slices in the baking dish.

I have some of those steel mesh colanders, one of which fits down nicely in my stockpot. I put the cabbage in that and set it in the boiling water -- it made fishing the wedges out of the hot water easier and, I think, prevented them from going entirely to pieces during the parboiling process. If you have a stockpot with a pasta insert, that would work too.

In a heavy saucepan, over medium-low heat, melt the butter and gently saute the onions until they are just turning golden. Add the flour and stir gently but constantly for the next three to five minutes, until you have a good blond roux.

Slowly add the broth and half and half, a drip or two at a time, stirring constantly, until it is all incorporated and you have a thick sauce. Now, stir in the grated cheese, a small handful at a time, until it's all melted in. Add the diced ham and chile, the other seasonings, and adjust to taste if necessary.

Ladle the sauce over the cabbage, and bake until bubbling, about 35-40 minutes. Sprinkle the top with a little more grated cheese and bake for a few minutes more. Serve hot.

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