Use Your Head

I had such fine ideas for dinner, really. But as those of us in the reality-based community know, wishing does not make things so. Dinner ended up different than intended, but in a good way.

It began with duck sausages, expertly defrosted. There was pie crust in the freezer, so I had visions of some down-home artisanal riff on pigs in a blanket or something. Unfortunately, the pie crust was not so expertly defrosted; it was still an obdurate lump come prep time. So I stashed it in the fridge for another meal and instead grabbed a glorious head of cabbage. Wheels turned. I blanched the big outer leaves to render them pliable.

Into those bright green leaves I tucked a sautéed mixture of the chopped sausages, leeks, carrot, bell pepper, onion, garlic, minced cabbage leaves (a couple that ripped) and leftover baked sweet potato that bound the whole mess nicely into a thickness. Four of them, rolled plump and tight, just fit in the pyrex loaf pan, which I interpreted as a sign. I topped them with some homemade tomato paste thinned with a bit of water and a drop of wine. Into the oven they went.

Once all browned and bubbly, out they came and eaten they got. They looked Eastern European, but the taste was all Italian, with a classic sausage and peppers thing going on in the filling. Best of all, it’s something I’ve made maybe twice before in my life. My mission to broaden the everyday repertoire has been going pretty well, and a big part of that success is due to taking what’s at hand and purposefully doing something I don’t usually do with it.

To drink, a 2006 Plan Pégau, the entry-level wine by the legendary Châteauneuf producers. It’s made from grapes outside the geographical range of CDP, and includes some merlot, so it can only be called Vin de Table. It’s not epic, but it’s very well-made and interesting for something in this price range (about $17 retail). The classic Southern Rhône equilibrium between fruit and leathery dirt makes it excellent with food and layered enough to savor by itself, and it’s still tannic enough to hold on for a few more years.

4 comments to Use Your Head

  • Cabbage is our friend! Great detour. I’ve been planning to make a “weed pie” for weeks, but finally concluded I didn’t want the crust. Had stewed greens instead.
    Great pix.

  • The second I laid eyes on that first photo all I could think was, “I have never seen a stuffed cabbage look so beautiful.” And with duck sausage! Now that’s an even better twist.

  • Peter

    CC: Quality detours are what we’re all about, as you know. But how could you not want the crust? You need to fly out here and have me learn you my Grandmother’s version. It’s the best crust in the world.

    Rachel: Thanks. I’ve been working on the photography a bit lately. And by all means try this with duck sausage; it’s wonderful.

  • Oh, thanks. I make a nice crust myself, but I just wasn’t in the mood for flour and butter.

Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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