Thursday, December 30, 2010

Napa Cabbage Curry and its Subsequent use as a Potato Topping

Having recently received for Christmas the fabulous Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes by one of my faves, Harold McGee, wherein he describes the pleasurable process of sniffing your pantry items periodically to check for freshness and be reminded of and inspired by their aromas, I did just that. The result being a Napa cabbage sautee with freshly toasted Indian spices and followed by a quick simmer in TexMex style tomatoes with chilies.

Harold McGee wrote the scholarly tome, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. It is chock full of valuable info and I have read through it a couple of times slowly filling in the gaps in my food knowledge. In "Keys" he digests this information into a very practical and inspiring piece for everyday home cooks like myself.

Napa Cabbage Curry

1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon panch puran (Indian 5 spice)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 jalapeños roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic skinned (or de-skinned)

1 tablespoon oil or fat (I used olive oil but would have used ghee if I had some made)
2 onions halved and sliced lengthwise

1 head Napa cabbage roughly chopped
White wine (if needed)
1 can TexMex style tomatoes with chilies (like Ro-Tel)

First off let me say that I am not an accomplished Indian food cook. I have a couple of books and really enjoy improvising with spices. If I were a real Indian food cook I would have used ghee for sure. Also I would have started my sautee with ginger, garlic and onions. I also would have probably done a lot of other things I don't even know I didn't do. That being said, this came out really satisfying for what is basically a pot of cabbage.

Toast coriander and panch puran (or whatever whole spices you enjoy and have on hand) in a heavy pan over medium heat shaking often until toasty and aromatic but not burnt.

Transfer to a large mortar and beat to a powder. Add the jalapeños, garlic and turmeric and beat until the veggies begin to break down.

What you will end up with is a sort of ugly grey green paste.

Heat oil or fat over high heat in a large pot. Cook onions, stirring regularly until they begin to brown.

Add the paste from the mortar and cook, stirring constantly, for maybe a minute.

Add the cabbage and season with salt. At this point it might be necessary to add a little liquid (like white wine) if things start to get dry and burny on the bottom but soon the cabbage will exude liquid as well. Sautee cabbage, stirring, often until cooked to your taste.

Reduce heat to medium low and add tomatoes. Simmer for a few minutes to allow flavors to meld.

As is happens, the fates conspired to create a situation where I had baked some potatoes and was frying some eggs for my wife, a perfect storm if you will. The result was;

Baked potatoes topped with Napa cabbage curry and fried eggs. Truly delicious, truly.

Happy New Year!


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