True Tale of the Cabbage Casserole

Oh, the magpie, she wanders around some days with her head in a bag, which is a very hard posture in which to encounter the shiny.

Too many days to sum up, so I will settle with telling you the true tale of the cabbage casserole.

I desire to keep this intact.

On Sunday, planning the food for the week I noticed that I had both unused portabellos and a whole head of cabbage. Seems like these could go together well. First thing I thought of was some sort of savory strudel, which let me tell you would be freaking delicious, but more than I want to cope with one a weeknight, so ... TO THE INNERWEBZ! Not to tip my hand too much, but this is one of the best uses of the internet. "OK, I have 15 minutes to make dinner, I have some croutons, a can of sardines and a fennel bulb ... go!" {OK, that was a gimme.} Lynne Rossetto Caspar is brilliant, and I am good at explaining to you how to think through your on-hand possibilities, but a google search is pretty fine, too. So, a 5 minutes of perusing, and I decide that Florence Fabricant's recipe for mushroom & cabbage casserole from the NYT is just the thing.

On Tuesday, I've picked the kids up from school, and besides a work phone call, there is nothing on our schedule for the evening, except the evening, so whipping something up that needs to bake for 2 - 2.5 hours is actually no problem. Then I notice. The recipe does this weird thing that recipes sometimes do: It tells me to saute in a casserole dish before putting the dish, full of stuff, in the oven.

Now, two things to know at this point ... I once actually did crack a beautiful moderne white casserole clean in half trying to use it over an open flame, chicken and wine dropping out through the bottom and clogging the jets of the burner. And I have in my possession a perfectly good calphalon heavy duty "everday pan", which is a wide, 3 in deep flat bottomed pan with two handles and a lid. I use it, uh ... like, every single day, for everything. I had another that had non-stick coating that got all cruddy so I had to get rid of it, and I was never happy again until I found another. {So, in case you're taking notes: search ingredient combos on the net, and get thee to an everyday pan.} I could have used this pan in lieu of an actual casserole (which as far as I am concerned is a piece of crockery or glass), but I was afraid it wasn't big enough, and I also happen to own a beautiful blue ridged French casserole, given to me as a wedding present, which I rarely used, and this recipe seemed to be whispering its name.

But, but, putting this beautiful French stoneware on an open flame? What if it cracks like that other one? Oh, the horror. Yet, there it sits on my dining room shelf, looking pretty but never utilized, maybe it is worth the risk -- at least it will have some chance at fulfillment! So, to shield it, I decided to set the casserole on a cookie sheet during the stovetop portion of the process. This worked pretty well, actually. Took a while to come to temperature, but when it did, the mushrooms sauteed just fine, and the onions, and ... just when I put the garlic in, I notice the whole electronic control panel of the stove had gone dark, and the oven was no longer making trusty pre-heating noises. I had lost power. Did I blow a fuse or trip a breaker (it's Cleveland Heights, we have both)? Shit. I oggled the fuse box on the stairs, and guess it looks ok. Then I got O to find me a mini maglite, and I went to the basement. The breaker didn't look like it was tripped, but I flipped it off and on, just in case, and a few others just for good measure. Back upstairs ... nada. Shit shit. I don't want to do takeout. And I don't want to have to repair my stove. We just repaired David's gas tank, for christsake. I go through the household files and dig out the installation guide to my Kitchen-Aid range, as well as a quick-start guide to the control panel, but ... the actual manual is nowhere to be find. Did I say shit already? Back down to the basement to toggle the breakers some more. Still nothing. Sigh. I begin shuffling around in the junk drawer for menus. I snap at O when he wants to tell me another piece of trivia about ninjago. I rehearse the conversation with David where I tell him we will have to buy a new stove. I turn around and ... tada! ... the stove lights are back on! Magic!

I think my fancy stove has some auto shutoff mechanism to save itself. Maybe my cookie sheet was getting too hot and threatening to explode my favorite double, high power burner? I wouldn't want to risk that, so ... food half prepped and 2-hours of baking time still in front of me, I decide my range is more important than my French dish, so ... gasp! ... I did it, I put it over the open flame. Not a high flame, and the dish was already hot. And in went the garlic and ginger, and most of the cabbage-- all that would fit -- and the hot broth. The dish did make a worrisome loudish ping when the broth went in, but it still looked (and still looks now) to be in one piece. So whatever structural damage was inflicted has yet to reveal itself. And the wine went in, and the salt and pepper.

And the casserole went in the oven, and I ranted on the internet about poor recipe editing but was really gulping in relief that my stove still worked, and 2 hours later I pulled out an extraordinary dish. Topped with sour cream and sprinkled with poppy seeds, this casserole is rich and soothing and unexpectedly complex. I also served boiled local-ish gold potatoes tossed with butter, salt (lots of both), and smoked paprika. These were perfect with the baked cabbage and mushrooms. Perfect. The kids and I feasted on them and watched weird time-travel Phineas and Ferb. And my French blue casserole has been actualized.

Reading: NYer review of British psychoanalytic writer Adam Phillips's book about missing out and the dangers of the fantasy of the unlived life. Unlike some long-format reviews this made me want to read Phillips's book(s) rather than making me feel like I didn't need too. Not sure I would entirely agree with Phillips, especially with a feminist lens (I think Feminine Mystique was valuable largely in that gave women permission to consider the lives they weren't living seriously), but I also think there is something valuable in his position, plus and he sounds smart and interesting. Also, Joan Acocella is just a great reviewer.

Also a women's mag first person article by a woman in her 40s who has eaten nothing but potatoes, white bread and crackers, and milk her whole life. She has some kind of extreme new-food-phobia. She wishes she could get over it. She was raised in a family, with two siblings, of varied omnivores. She sounds smart and insightful, and she has queried many, many people trying to understand her condition. Weirdness abounds in this universe.

Writing: Finished the non-ToT project, and finished it well. Back, at last, to the ToT in the morn.

Dinner: Aside from the fraught and delicious casserole? Monday pizza was an extravagant "asian" bok choy and red pepper pizza. The sauce I improvised from a can of pineapple, good teriyaki, some barbecue sauce and ketchup, whipped up with my no longer virgin stick blender.

Wednesday is now kids-make-dinner night. They made pizza with a lovely homemade sauce of canned tomatoes smashed with garlic and oregano and olive oil. With fresh mozzarella and tons of mini pepperonis. On a gluten-free crust, so Sarah could eat with us. O also made a green salad. Sarah supervised because I had to work late. She estimates it was 65% kid labor. Not bad.

Tonight was hoppin' john, which I made in the crockpot for the soul food potluck at Z's school (I added tomatoes, which I think is not entirely traditional). Then I got to sample some great greens, mac and cheese and ham, too.

Soundtrack: I failed. I am sorry. I failed to prove my love with 28 days of love songs. I hope you know I love you anyway.

In honor of the incredibly beautiful full moon this week (Virgo full moon according to my astrologer friends), I give you these:

The full moon always makes me think of David. It is our moon,
no matter what you think. And David shared this song with me, 
so now I sing it a little bit whenever I see the moon and think of him.

This is a Carl Perkins song. Perhaps you've noticed how I am
fond of the rockabilly? However, Carl's recorded versions of this 
number are a little staid. Deke Dickerson is a great rockabilly guitarist.

Random: I am measurably happier on the days I blog. I hope you are too.