The other pork jowl steak was covered with thin slices of Benton's country ham, tightly rolled and cooked sous vide at 60C/140F for 3 hours, then chilled in the bag overnight.
The pork roll had remarkable flavor and texture, like a fine charcuterie— as if the ham had cured the pork from within. It held its shape, even when thinly sliced, until the heat of a pan caused them to unfurl their tails, whimsically creating pork commas.
Whoever said that cabbage is the lowliest of vegetables had surely never seen the Savoy, whose extravagantly blistered leaves look like the velvet trapunto quilts of European finery. The flavor, too, is more refined than the common smooth-leaved variety. And those nooks and crannies? They make great traps for sauces.
With the weather propelling toward winter, I've been working on hearty vegetable dishes that are free of dairy and gluten. In my world, where I'm often feeding people with restricted diets, dishes like these are my Ace in the hole. Cabbage was first on my list with the intention of transforming it into something comforting, yet luxurious. I thought I could accomplish that by saucing the tender leaves of Savoy with a creamy puree of itself, but that wasn't producing the full mouth feel that I was after.
Simultaneously, I've been exploring the process of using cooked grains and nut purees as thickeners in place of refined starches. Refined starches work wonders at altering texture without affecting flavor, but there are times when the whole personality of a food (instead of just one of its properties) is welcome. And cabbage had rolled out the mat.
I pondered the options over breakfast: wheat was out, so should I use buckwheat, quinoa, rice, pumpkin seeds, chestnuts? All were viable, but ultimately, the answer laid before me in my bowl of oatmeal.
creamed smoked cabbage
Adding steel cut oats to cabbage puree gives it a creamy richness, but don't substitute instant or rolled oats or you may end up with a gluey, too-much-Xanthan-like consistency.
If meat products are not an issue, I recommend using chicken stock, augmented with ham scraps for the liquid. Otherwise, vegetable broth, or water, is fine.
Smoking the cabbage is optional, but especially in the absence of meat, it makes a marked difference in the enjoyment of the dish.
oatmeal: 20g steel cut oats, lightly toasted in a dry pan
60g apple cider
Place all of ingredients in a vacuum bag and seal. Cook in an 82C/180F water bath for 55 minutes.
cabbage: 350g de-ribbed Savoy cabbage leaves that have been cut into 1/4" squares
bouquet garni of: 1 bay leaf, 5 peppercorns, 4 juniper berries, 2g fresh caraway seeds or 1g dried
200g vegetable, chicken, or ham stock
2g baking soda
Pack cabbage and bouquet garni into a vacuum bag. In a small bowl, stir the stock, salt, and baking soda until dissolved, them pour over the cabbage in bag. Seal bag and place in water bath with the oatmeal (82C/180F) for 45 minutes. When done, open the bag and drain contents, discarding the bouquet garni.
Lightly smoke the cabbage with smoked apple wood chips in a smoker for 5 minutes, following manufacturer's directions. (alternately, use a smoke gun).
Separate 125g of the cooked cabbage and place the remaining cabbage in a saucepan.
cream: 6g sliced garlic
50g extra virgin olive oil
125g of smoked cabbage from above
contents of cooked oatmeal bag from above
50g vegetable, chicken, or ham stock
2g fresh caraway leaves, or a blend of 1.5g fresh dill weed and 1g dried caraway seeds
Heat the olive oil over low heat and add the garlic. Sweat the garlic until fragrant, translucent, and just beginning to color. Scrape into a blender along with the remaining ingredients. Blend on high to form a smooth puree.
to finish: scrape puree into saucepan with remaining cabbage and toss over low heat until warmed through and the cabbage leaves are evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
I toasted some Savoy leaves (after misting them with olive oil) in a 176C/350F oven for a few minutes until they were crisp. They reminded me of the Caldas da Rainha ceramics that I collected in the 90's when they were popular. I was drawn to their realistic depictions of natural forms, mostly cabbage leaves. My favorite piece remains a soup tureen, a trompe l'oeil of a head of Savoy, which I swear that any soup that is served from it tastes better.
The crispy cabbage leaves make tasty edible bowls for serving the creamed smoked cabbage. They can be picked up, folded, and eaten out of hand— no utensils required. Here, they're filled with creamed smoked kale (which works just as well as cabbage), slices of rolled pork jowl, 64℃ quail egg yolk, fresh garbanzo beans cooked with horseradish, and pickled rutabagas.