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Sausage and Cabbage Cake

Rachel Roddy, a Rome-based cookbook author and columnist for the British newspaper The Guardian, has been inspiring me for years, especially after the publication of her book  –  “A Kitchen In Rome.” I’ve worked my way through many of the recipes, but haven’t made this one – for sausage and cabbage cake – until now. I don’t what took me so long, since it’s pretty quick to put together and elevates pedestrian cabbage rolls to company-worthy fare. It all starts with this beautiful Savoy cabbage, a vegetable that, aside from being highly edible, deserves to be in a still life painting.

Remove seven of the largest and unblemished leaves and blanch them for a couple of minutes, patting them dry after you’ve rinsed them in cold water.

You need to quarter the remaining cabbage, and blanch them for five minutes too.

In a buttered 8″ cake tin, place the largest and prettiest leaf. 

Layer in the other six leaves on top of the bottom leaf.

Push the sausage meat firmly inside the cake tin, using your hands to help conform to the shape of the pan.

Fill in with the rest of the cabbage, then fold in the overlapping leaves and press firmly. Dot with butter and place in a 350 degree oven for an hour.

I placed the pan inside another pan in case some juices spilled out during baking. as you can see, the top layer gets a little browned. Not to worry – that’s going to be the bottom when you serve it.

See, when you flip it out, it gets all show-offy, pretending to be a miniature oak tree.  (Be sure to flip it onto a plate over the sink because a lot of hot, watery juices will spill out).

I served it with a plain marinara sauce, but a cheese sauce, or a béchamel sauce would be right at home here too. Wine optional. No, revise that. Serve with a good glass of dry red or white wine – and some crusty bread.

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Sausage and Cabbage Cake
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 large Savoy cabbage
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds (I used fennel pollen)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½ tablespoons butter
  • about 1 pour very lean, well-seasoned sausage (without casings)
Instructions
  1. Remove 7 of the largest, handsomest outer leaves (discard any that are discolored or damaged) and wash them carefully.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the chosen leaves.
  3. Wait for the water to come back to a boil, then blanch the leaves for 2 minutes.
  4. Use a slotted spoon to remove the leaves and drain in a colander in the sink, rinsing with very cold water to fix the color.
  5. Drain them well and spread them out flat to dry thoroughly on paper towels.
  6. Set them aside.
  7. Cut the rest of the cabbage into quarters and bring the same water back to a boil.
  8. Cook the cabbage quarters in the boiling water for 5 minutes, by which time the leave should be tender but the stems still firm.
  9. Drain the cabbage, rinse with cold water, drain again, and squeeze out any excess water.
  10. Cut away the hard central stem and separate the leaves into a bowl.
  11. Dress them with olive oil and fennel seeds and season with salt and pepper.
  12. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and grease an 8-inch round shallow ovenproof dish with half the butter.
  13. Choose the largest and best-looking leaf from the 7 you have set aside and place it in the bottom of the dish.
  14. It should cover the base and come up the sides. (Mine didn't)
  15. Arrange the other 6 leaves so that they cover the sides of the dish, fanned out, overlapping a lot and hanging over the edges.
  16. Using a third of the seasoned cabbage, make a layer at the bottom of the dish and cover with half the sausage, pressing it down so it molds into the dish.
  17. Repeat the process, ending with a third layer of cabbage leaves.
  18. Press everything into the dish. Fold and bring in the overlapping leaves to cover the top and make a neat packet.
  19. Dot with the remaining butter and bake for 1 hour.
  20. (Readers please note, Ciao Chow Linda used half of the cabbage and all the sausage here, and finished with the other half of the cabbage, ending with folding the overlapping leaves. )
  21. Remove and allow the cake to stand for 5 minutes before inverting a serving plate on top of the baking dish and turning out the cake.
  22. Be careful, and do this over the sink, as there will be hot juices.
 

 

Polenta Festa Redux

Once a year, the Italian cultural organization I’m involved with holds a polenta festa. It’s always one of the most well-attended events of the year, with lots of polenta dishes to enjoy – from appetizers and main courses to dessert. This year, the nasty New Jersey weather kept some people away, but that just meant there was more for those who did show up, carrying their warm platters of the humble cornmeal dish.
Here’s a sampling of the various offerings: polenta with sausages and sauerkraut from Mary Sue and Al:
Eleanor’s polenta with broccoli rabe
 Polenta with sausages and melted cheeses from Ciao Chow Linda:
We had entertainment too – two students from Princeton University who played everything from “O Sole Mio” to the intermezzo from “Cavalleria Rusticana.” Bravi studenti.
 Then it was on to dessert, including Gilda’s cornmeal almond cake. I’ve posted the recipe for this before and you can find it here.
 Cornmeal chocolate chip cookies
 Polenta lemon cake (almost identical to a recipe I posted here)
 The next night back at home, as the Polar “Vortex” made its way to Princeton, I warmed up with some polenta and wild greens, again crowned with a mixture of grated fontina and parmesan, the same topping I used on the sausage dish I took to the festa.
My dishes, the first picture with the sausage and the one above with wild greens, were assembled by making a pot of polenta (instructions for making polenta from scratch here), cooking – then slicing some Italian sausage (or cooking the wild greens in water, draining and sautéing in olive oil with garlic, salt and red pepper flakes)  and scattering it over the polenta. Top with some grated fontina cheese and a sprinkling of parmesan. Heat in a 425 degree oven for a half hour or until cheese is melted and begins to turn slightly golden.
If you’re a neophyte when it comes to making polenta, fear not — take the plunge. The best polenta comes from constant stirring over a stove for 40 to 45 minutes, but I’ve been known to use the five-minute polenta too, and it’s not bad. Cookbook author Michele Scicolone even writes of a method using a slow cooker to make polenta, in her cookbook, “The Italian Slow Cooker.” And click here to learn about America’s Test Kitchen  “almost no-stir polenta” recipe.  Just don’t use that stuff that comes in a tube or you’ll be shut out in the polar vortex.
 
Polenta with Sausages (or wild greens) and Cheeses
Make polenta using one of the methods described and pour into an oven-proof dish.
Saute sausages in a pan until cooked through (or alternately do as I did and remove casings from sausage, then simmer in some water until cooked).
Slice and arrange sausages over polenta, poking some down into it. Cover with grated fontina and parmesan cheese. Bake at 425 degrees for 1/2 hour or until melted and slightly golden on top.
For the wild greens, boil them in some water, drain. Then add a bit of olive oil to a pan, some minced garlic and let it soften. Put the drained greens back in, adding a bit of salt and red pepper flakes. Spread the mixture on the polenta, adding grated fontina and parmesan. Bake for 425 degrees for 1/2 hour or until melted and slightly golden on top.
Basic Polenta – – Michele Scicolone, “The Italian Slow Cooker” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2010)
Serves 6
1 cup coarsely ground cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
1½ teaspoons salt
5 cups water (or half water and half broth)
Additional water, milk, broth or cream, optional
In a large slow cooker, stir together the cornmeal, salt and water. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours. Stir the polenta. If it seems too thick, add a little extra liquid. Cook for 30-60 minutes more, until thick and creamy. Serve hot.