Another Thousand Leaf Cabbage

Cabbage does not bring to mind Japanese cuisine! But home cooks have a repertoire of recipes to take advantage of the humble inexpensive tender-sweet cabbages which come to market in autumn and winter. These meals are homely and comforting, warm and rich, and as you can see: they are not necessarily beautiful to the eye. Don’t be deceived. One cannot “judge a book by its cover.”
The pictures below link to other Japanese cabbage recipes:
braised pork and chinese cabbagemille-feuliie cabbagespicy chinese style cabbage tsukemono

Japanese simmered cabbage and tofumille-feuliie cabbagecabbage pancake

The “thousand leaves” (mille-feuille in French) in this casserole are layered horizontally with a pork stuffing. The casserole in my previous post involved layering the cabbage leaves vertically. The flavor of this version is also very different from the other. Enjoy!

Layered Cabbage Casserole
kyabetsu no kasaneni (キャベツの重ね煮)

adapted from Maki of Just Hungry
serves 6 as a main dish

The Leaves:

  • 1 medium cabbage
  • large pot of boiling water
  • large bowl of cold water

With a sharp knife, cut a cone of stalk from the bottom of the cabbage. In a very large pot, blanch the cabbage for about 2 minutes (in addition to the time it takes the water to come to a boil again). Use large kitchen tongs to remove it to a bowl of cold water. Peel away the leaves one by one. You’ll want 15 to 20 leaves—you don’t actually need 1000. If the center rib is thick, you can shave it so it is more delicate. If the quick blanch did not penetrate to the core, then put the head back into the hot water for further treatment.
The Filling:

  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs (or use about 1 cup cooked rice)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 ounces firm tofu squeezed dry and mashed
  • 12 ounces of ground pork (or a combination of beef and pork)

Combine the egg, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, cinnamon and onion. Add the tofu and stir well. Add the pork and blend well.
The Broth:

  • 3 ½ to 4 cups chicken broth
  • 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons sake
  • 1 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon miso (add this at the end of cooking)

Combine the above, except for the miso.
Equipment, Assembly, Cooking, and Serving:

  • crockpot
  • square of cheesecloth, large enough to fit in your crockpot with the corners over the top
  • a large flat plate and pie-plate, or shallow bowl, a bit larger than the diameter of your crockpot

Place the cheesecloth in the crockpot with the corners hanging over the rim of the pot. You will use this to pull the stuffed cabbage out of the pot to place it on the serving dish for serving. Put down a few large leaves to line the bottom of your pot. Reserve a few large leaves for the top layer. Cover with a layer of the filling. Add another layer of cabbage leaves, then a layer of filling, working your way to smaller and smaller leaves. Cover the top of the reserved large leaves. The top should be flat: press the contents to be sure there are not air bubbles.

Pour the broth around the cabbage. The liquid should just barely cover the top. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat. My 25 year old crockpot has a very nice low setting, but my 5 year old one cooks a bit hotter: you should check to be sure the broth does not boil away. Simmer gently for 1 hour or longer. About 15 minutes before serving (while your rice is cooking) blend the Tablespoon of miso to the sauce. Take a small cupful of hot broth, add the miso then stir until the miso is suspended in the liquid.

Use 2 pairs of tongs with an assistant, or a pair of silicon graspers. Take the four corners of the cheesecloth to lift the cabbage assembly above the crockpot to drain the broth. When the cabbage stops dripping, move it to a large plate. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then drain the broth that seeps out to the crock pot. Cover the cabbage with the pie plate (or shallow bowl), then do a quick “this is magic” flip so that the former bottom is the top and vice versa. Remove the cheesecloth.

Slice into wedges and serve in shallow bowls or soup plates with some of the sauce and plain rice or bread.

Note: If you don’t want to use a slow cooker, then you can use a heavy enamelled cast iron pot such as a Le Creuset with a smaller lid or plate to sit inside the pot to weigh down the cabbage, or a cast iron donabe with an otoshibuta (wooden drop lid) which floats on the broth.

  • Cabbage demand is highest in the month of March, fueled by the Saint Patrick’s day holiday promoting the traditional corned beef and cabbage meal.
  • Per person consumption of fresh cabbage has never climbed back to the 22 pounds per capita seen in the 1920s, and consumption has been relatively stable over the last decade and a half, averaging 9.3 pounds per person in 2008.
  • China remained the leading producer of cabbage in 2007, followed by India and South Korea (FAO). The United States ranked 8th in terms of production, behind Japan, Russia, Poland and Indonesia.

—from Agricultural Marketing

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