Thursday, January 10, 2008

Why So Blue?

Well, it was bound to happen. My mom has left, and now my apartment, which only two days ago felt stifling and repressive, feels surprisingly lonely and empty. Fortunately, I have a refrigerator full of random ingredients and leftovers to keep me company. Few challenges get me out of a rut like pulling together a meal from scraps. I love puzzles, and even though cooking can be a puzzle unto itself, nothing is better than taking random pieces and putting them together to see if they fit. The likelihood for disaster is high, but it's almost always certain that you learn something along the way. Even if it ends up in the garbage.

So as I stretched out on my once crowded sofa, I got to thinking about what, if anything, I could do with the odd assortment of goodies left in my fridge. There were vegetable remnants from various soups and stews, a few meaty, plump beef shanks, several cheese and deli meats, a smattering of fresh spices, and two heaping bowls of salsa. Although nothing in particular was calling out to me, I decided to try making something somewhat out of my comfort zone. Half a head of cabbage was holding up surprisingly well in my crisper, so I figured I'd give it a go and see how many other scrappy bits I could make work. I thought about adding a few other veggies and possibly braising the cabbage in stock, but I've never been one to make a vegetable heavy dish. So instead, I decided to pack in the pork. That's right, loads of salty, crispy bacon and spicy, juicy morsels of chorizo. But I wanted more for this dish than just the usual porcine suspects--something completely different that would give it depth of flavor was clearly in order.

What could I possibly have waiting in the wings that could stand up to the already bold (and completely perfect) favors of bacon and chorizo? Cheese, that's what. I had Parmesan, which would get completely lost amid the flavors in the dish, and a fairly strong Gouda that didn't really excite me at all. But then I spotted it, way in the back of the fridge, tightly wrapped in foil--a nice chunk of Roquefort. Would blue cheese work? Would I be ruining my dinner and wasting a pricey piece of cheese on a culinary pipe dream? Would the pungent smells of cabbage and blue cheese frighten the neighbors? So like any modern gal, I took to the internet and found that there are already recipes out there for cabbage in blue cheese sauce and cabbage stuffed with blue cheese, so I figured melting a few rich chunks of Roquefort couldn't hurt.

It actually turned out to be quite the delicious dish! I must admit that I may have gone a bit overboard with the meat products, but they tasted great to me. I shredded the cabbage so that every piece of bacon and chorizo was nestled against a long, fragrant tendril of cabbage. The cabbage itself took on a lovely languid texture, nice and soft without being the least bit mushy. I mixed in a bit of the blue cheese and then studded the top of the dish with a few pieces as well. It stood up well to the other flavors without overwhelming them. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised with how successful the dish was--it was definitely hearty enough to eat as a main dish by myself. The recipe will be for the quantity I made, but it multiplies easily, and would definitely be more than enough as a side dish for two people. Here's how to make it for yourself.

Sautéed Cabbage with Bacon, Chorizo and Roquefort

1/2 a head of cabbage, shredded
1 chorizo
2 pieces fatty bacon, sliced
2 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp thyme (ground or roughly chopped are fine)
1 tsp parsley
3 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup Roquefort or other blue cheese
pepper (white is best, but black will do)
extra virgin olive oil (optional)

1. Add cabbage to a pot of salted, boiling water. Cook until cabbage is almost done but still has a bit of a bite. Drain and set aside.

2. Cook bacon in a large sauté pan until crispy. Remove and set aside.

3. Allow rendered fat to cool, then add garlic and chorizo to pan on medium low heat. Before the garlic starts to brown, add the cabbage and sauté on medium heat. Add the thyme, parsley, and pepper and check for salt. If it looks a bit dry, add the olive oil.

4. Add lemon juice, cook for another minute then stir through half of the blue cheese.

5. Plate and top with remaining blue cheese. Enjoy!


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