Somewhere in my archives there is a recipe with Savoy cabbage and salmon. I am sneakily not giving the link. Otherwise people would never have to leaf through my accumulated postings which would be sad.
I keep being interested in the possibilities of savoy cabbage – it should be a marvelous vegetable, the queen of leaf cabbages. We might, for example, attempt to braise the cut-up cabbage in white wine and give it a creamy lift at the end. We’ll likely end up with a soggy and squishy heap that tastes quite nice but looks like what, when I was little, the farmers gave to the pig. Alternatively, we might try out some kitchen-wiz oven treatment with shredded savoy and minced lamb, which could result in dried-out, brown and bitter strands between the sizzling fragments of meat.
There are two easy paths towards better savoy cabbage: blanching and butter. Blanching makes the leaves soft and pliable – this enables you to wrap stuff in them. Butter is not even my first choice with other cabbages, but here, let me tell you, there is no way around it. Today I also got bits of fish involved in my experiment, but, you guessed it, minced veal or other niceties will do just as well, with some adjustments and a bit of luck.
So we will need the butter, some bits of fine, white fish, a few savoy cabbage leaves, preferably big but not dark green ones, onion, salt, quite much coarsely ground black pepper, the juice of half a lemon, and butter: we had five cabbage-y packages today and I used about six tablespoons of butter. Obviously the number of leaves and the amount of fish, and hence the amount of butter, depend on how many are eating. For a topping, grated Parmiggiano is fine.
I cut flat the middle rib along the convex side of each cabbage leaf. I also pre-heat the oven on medium-high. The cutting requires a sharp knife and a bit of fiddling: we don’t want the leaves to split. While doing this, a pan with plenty of water begins to boil.
Leaves rinsed and waiting, I begin melting the butter in a smaller pan, taking care that it doesn’t get brown, but just begins to foam. If this happens on medium-low heat, I have just time to peel and chop one onion. When the foam settles, I slip the onion dice into the butter. Now the water boils; I add salt and the cabbage leaves, one by one, pushing them under the surface with a wooden spoon, and boil on high for about 4 minutes.
I stir the onions and check that they are cooking slowly but steadily without browning – then I drain the cabbage. I pour half of the onion-butter in a large, square oven dish. I then squeeze the lemon, grind the pepper and cut the cleaned fillets of fish into chunks small enough to be able to wrap a cabbage leaf around each of them.
Now I sprinkle each cabbage inside with salt and pepper, put a bit of fish in the middle, add a little more salt and pepper and a careful dash of lemon juice, fold a tight, small package and deposit it, opening down, in the buttery bath of the waiting oven dish. Soon there is a whole assembly of green, square-ish parcels. I pour the rest of the butter strategically on top of each parcel – this prevents the cabbage from getting parched. Into the oven goes everything, and I can relax for about 20 minutes and grate the Parmesan, which goes on top of the parcels five minutes before the end.
The advantages of this procedure are many: we end up with a rich, buttery taste to enhance the cabbage, a peppery turn which manifests itself more in aroma than in bite, a lean filling and a beautiful touch of lemon to balance the massive surroundings, and an overall nicely al-dente texture (this reads as if I would be able to sell car cleaners in shopping malls. I am not). I think white rice is better with this than potatoes. And some tomato salad is fine, too.