My Inherited Love of Cabbage

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

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I preformed in one play in my life. And in that one play, I was given one line. That line could not have been better assigned to any student in the entire 3rd grade.

Cabbage… I love Cabbage!

– Whitney Otawka, as said in the 1987 stage performance of the Elf and the Shoemaker preformed at Maple Elementary School in Fontana California

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It is no surprise that the foods we love and crave are foods that take us somewhere. That place can be a childhood memory, the comforts of home, or defining moments in our lives. For me, cabbage is a tie to my family history and the mysterious and untraceable roots of the Otawka’s. There is only one item that I inherited over time that links me to my surname and that is my copy of “The Anniversary Slovak-American Cookbook” published in 1952. My mother was given this cookbook by my paternal great-grandmother who was, I have been told, an amazing cook. She was born in Hungary in 1885 and lovingly referred to a Bubba. I never met her, nor did I know my grandmother, but I share in their love of cabbage, sour cream, paprika, and dumplings. Christmas is not Christmas with out nut roll (kolacky) and as a child I looked forward to the white and pink wafers know as oplatky that would arrive in the mail wrapped in a palm leaf every Easter. These are small ties to a small family that I do not know well, but there is one thing I can be certain of and that is our love of cabbage.

So today I start with the beginnings, a classic comfort food, cabbage and noodles. It is inexpensive and extremely easy to make. We are fortunate to still have some chanterelles popping up here on Cumberland so I have included them for a little extra layer of flavor.

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Cabbage & Noodles with Chanterelle Mushrooms

2 heads savoy cabbage
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
3½ teaspoons kosher salt
3 teaspoons Hungarian paprika
2 cups chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned
1 clove garlic, minced
1- 12 oz package of medium egg noodles

For the cabbage, cut each head into four equal pieces. Using the larger side of a box grater, grate all of the cabbage. Heat a large pan over medium heat. Add in 6 tablespoon of butter. Add in the cabbage and reduce heat to low. Slowly cook the cabbage for about 30 minuets, stirring frequently. Do not let the cabbage brown. Halfway through the cooking time add in 2 tablespoons butter, salt, and paprika. Set aside.

In a large pot bring 3 quarts of water and 3 tablespoons of salt to a boil. Add in egg noodles and cook for recommend length of time, around 7-8 minuets. Strain the noodles from the water and toss with 2 tablespoons of butter. While the noodles are cooking heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium sauté pan. Add in garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add in chanterelle mushrooms. Sauté until cooked through, around 3 minuets. Season with kosher salt.

To plate, toss the cabbage and chanterelle mushrooms with the noodles in a large bowl. Share with your loved one!