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I had a craving for a greek dish called “SARMADES” or “LAHANODOLMADES” which is a northern greek version of cabbage leaf rolls, stuffed with a mixture of rice and minced meat, strongly-flavored with lemon and cumin, that are time-consuming in their assembly, each one roll and piled on top of one another, then cooked and simmered gently, over a low fire for several hours.

It’s a wonderful dish requiring much active hands-on time, just like the smaller rice & fresh herbs-stuffed grape vine leaves dish, coated with an egg-lemon sauce, called dolmades”, that many of you are familiar with.

*It’s intriguing how seemingly incidental food cravings one can have, coincide with those experienced by your far-off family members, and be identically-timed even when they’re overseas ! This is what happened when I called my parents last weekend and while I was preparing this reinterpreted dish, they were preparing their original version !

Here’s a deconstructed version. No pre-boiling of the cabbage to soften and loosen the leaves, to be later peeled off, one by one, and then stuffed with the meat and rice mixture and rolled up, piled up and finally cooked in a broth. I chose to braise the meats and shred them, as I did with the cabbage and serve it all as a heartier (and messier) casserole. I add an extra kick of mustard that incorporates an additional warmer dimension to this hearty winter dish.

You can use store-bought broth and beer (or omit and replace the beer and use extra water or broth) to braise and simmer everything and if possible, prepare or modify your broth by including and using all the extra vegetable peelings, stems and cabbage core included in this dish, to create it, thus wasting nothing, or at least trying not to.

We’ve been lucky here in France with relatively good weather when the sun is out from mid-day to early evening, but with still chilly mornings and evenings, so I’ll continue with a few more winter dishes before launching the spring preparations soon enough . . . :)

braised & shredded beef & cabbage casserole

23.02.2019

6-8

ingredients

  • 2 kg shredded (or thinly sliced) white and/or green cabbage
  • 1,5 kg beef (500 grams beef belly slices & 1 kg beef chuck cubes)
  • 350 grams (2 large) lemons (halved & quartered)
  • 250 grams (1 very large) onion (or a mix of smaller white, yellow, green onions)
  • 25 grams (3-4 cloves) garlic
  • 55 grams (4 tbsp) olive oil + 55 grams (4 tbsp) olive oil
  • 22,5 grams (1 ½ tbsp) sea salt divided in 3 x 7,5 grams (3 x ½ tbsp)
  • 7 grams (2-3) fresh falt-leaf parsley stalks
  • 5 grams (2) fresh dill stalks
  • 2 grams (3) fresh bay leaves
  • 4 grams (1 tsp) + 2 grams (½ tsp) mustard seeds
  • 2,5 grams (1 tsp) + 1,25 grams (½ tsp) cumin seeds
  • 2 grams (½ tsp) + 1 gram (¼ tsp) ground peppercorns
  • 1,25 grams ½ tsp + 0,62 grams (¼ tsp) fennel seeds
  • 500 ml (2 cups) veal & vegetable stock/broth
  • 500 ml (2 cups) light beer

instructions

  • preheat the oven to 180°C
  • heat 4 tbsp olive oil in a large casserole, sprinkle ½ tbsp salt on the meat cubes and/or slices, sear the meat, at high heat, for 1-2 minutes on all sides until browned
  • remove the casserole from the heat, add the quartered or sliced onions sli, the quartered lemon, an additional ½ tbsp salt, the sliced garlic and herbs and 1 tsp each of the mustard seeds and cumin seeds and ½ tsp each of the peppercorns and fennel seeds, finally add the veal stock and beer
  • cover the casserole with a lid and place in the oven for 2 hours minimum and up to 3 hours maximum, until the beef has become very tender and easy to shred
  • remove from the oven, let cool down, strain the mixture, recuperate the flavorful stock, separate the meats from the remaining vegetables, discard the withered vegetables and lemon rinds and shred/separate the meat, using your fingers, into longer filaments (while removing any small bones or tougher parts)
  • note : my resulting remains after 2½ hours of oven-baking were as follows: 165 grams vegetable, herbs, lemon rinds (to be discarded) + 50 grams tougher meat parts (to be discarded) + 825 grams cooked tenderized meat (to be hand-shredded) + 1150 grams strained liquid broth, for a total of 2175 grams or approximately half of the initial total before oven-baking …
  • slice or shred the cabbage into longer filaments, sprinkle with the juice of the 2ndlemon and ½ tbsp salt, pour the broth into the large casserole and add all the cabbage, the rinds of the 2nd lemon, the ¼ tsp each of pepper and fennel seeds and ½ tsp each of mustard and cumin seeds, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer (on the stovetop), cover with a lid and let cook for 60- 90 minutes until tender
  • add the shredded beef, ¼ cup more olive oil and let cook at medium heat and covered with a lid for 5-10 minutes to blend the flavors, then remove the lid and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes at medium-low heat and uncovered, to partly evaporate the extra liquid, adjust to your taste with more salt and/or pepper and cumin and/or mustard seeds sprinkle with some extra parsley and/or some dill fronds (of which I ran out) and serve with country bread and some grainy old-fashioned mustard.