Thursday, April 15, 2010

Historic Recipe: Cabbage Delmonico (and, a farewell to a good friend)

Friends, throughout the course of this experiment you've read my ruminations about cabbage. Ah, that staple of restricted wartime winter diets; the only source of semi-fresh green leafy things for many months. We've baked it, made various salads out of it and had moments of frustration with it.

Today, I honor cabbage with another historic recipe: Cabbage Delmonico. The recipe comes from Joanne Lamb Hayes' Grandma's Wartime Kitchen: World War II and the Way We Cooked and is described as a "meatless main dish." Here's my version as I made it...

2 lb head of cabbage
2 TB butter
3 TB all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp dry mustard
3/4 tsp paprika (Hungarian is best)
3/4 tsp salt
2 cups milk
1 cup grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs

Cut cabbage into 6-7 wedges and cook in boiling water for about 5 minutes (the recipe said to boil for 8 minutes but I didn't want to overcook my cabbage, per grandmum's instructions). Drain the cabbage.

In a small saucepan melt the butter over low heat. Gradually stir in the flour, mustard, paprika and salt until smooth. Gradually stir in the milk, stirring constantly over low heat. Add in the cheese bit by bit and stir until all the cheese is melted.

Place cabbage in 9" x 9" baking dish and top with the cheese sauce. Sprinkle the bread crumbs and extra paprika over the top and bake for 20 minutes.

This is what it looked like coming out of the oven:

And this is what it looked like on the plate:

Sigh. Can't cabbage ever look attractive? If you have an even half-way decent imagination then you can ascertain how this dish turned out. After all, it's pretty much just cabbage and a mild cheese sauce. I'm not sure if the "meatless main dish" description is historically true, or just one the cookbook's author felt fit well. Either way, there's not enough protein or carbohydrates to make this a satisfying meal.

Cabbage, dear're like the Susan Boyle of rationing. Humble? Yes. Comely? Yes. Underestimated? Yes. And then you get your chance to shine and surprise us all by how tasty you can be in such dishes as baked cabbage and Asian cabbage slaw.

But like Susan Boyle, your moment to shine will fade...and so fade, you must.

Due to the seasonal restrictions on our produce selection, this will be the last time we purchase/prepare cabbage in the house until late summer. The next few months will be filled with fresh spinach and lettuce and many other green vegetables which have waited anxiously to have their moments of recognition.

And so, cabbage, this is farewell. At least, until late August.


--Rational Mama

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