Soundtrack: Something on NPR I think?
I don’t want to read your ramblings, just take me to the recipe: Italian Stuffed Cabbage Leaves
Star Rating: Three Mediocre Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Remember how teachers would advise you to read exam question three times before answering? I need to carry that over to these recipes.
There are many reasons this is a solid approach – if you don’t read thoroughly enough you can miss ingredients, or get caught off-guard by those annoying recipes where they don’t list steps in a logical order, or end up with a phantom ingredient which appears in the method but not in the initial list.
In this case it wasn’t a messy method or missed ingredient that further investigation would have uncovered. It was a description of a texture.
It was the word ‘paste’.
Please see the following offending item:
Place bread scraps in bottom of large bowl and pour milk over. Let sit for a few minutes, then mash it gently with a spoon until something close to a paste forms.
Paste is not an inspiring word. Paste is not something that makes you think “Mmmm. That sounds delicious and I can’t wait to eat it”. Paste makes you think of that weird kid in primary school who used to eat glue.
When you bring it into the context of meatballs (which is what was in the cabbage rolls, in case you’re wondering where this is going), things really start to go south.
Meatballs are great for many reasons – they are literal balls made of meat, they are really versatile, you can do almost limitless variations on this theme. They are also great because of the meaty mouthfeel (probably don’t say that phrase in polite company). There is a resistance and texture to meatballs that make them very satisfying to eat.
The above step robbed this recipe of their magical meaty mouthfeel.
The final product was fine. I won’t bore you with the details but the cabbage leaves were very easy to work with, and held the meatballs well. The cooking method was simple. But the outcome was just a bit unsatisfactory – there wasn’t enough textural interest to make this a great dish, and barely enough taste to make it a good one.
I’ve since been told I should have been making galumpkis instead. These use beef mince, include rice rather than a wet breadcrumb paste to bind them together, and sound 100% more interesting. At some point I’ll come back to this recipe and redeem myself, because the architecture of this recipe was sound, but my choice of recipe was flawed.