Simple Sides: Irish Cabbage Rolls
By Dennis Linden
Competing schedules in the day-to-day lives of a busy modern family make it difficult to share a home-cooked meal together, but not impossible. In fact, with a little planning, cooking together can become a fun family event and learning opportunity. This feature will focus on providing a child or a group of children, working together under the supervision of an adult, with one uncomplicated, healthy and delicious side dish recipe. The dishes will be centered on seasonal fresh produce items; the recipes will always contain tasks will allow even the youngest kitchen helper to contribute to the family meal. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to judge the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where adult attention might be especially needed.
Many of the recipes presented here will seem very basic -- this is by design. It is hoped that these simple preparations will provide the culinary foundation and confidence to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as their experience in the kitchen develops. Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family unit at least once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a wonderful way to teach a child basic culinary skills and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories in all of your hearts forever.
Turn corned beef leftovers from St. Patrick’s Day dinner into a culinary lesson for your young kitchen helpers with this easy corned beef and cabbage recipe that uses two of Melissa’s convenient, ready-to-serve fresh products to quicken the prep for beginner cooks. While cabbage rolls are Eastern European in origin, it’s a mystery why the Irish never adopted the dish since cabbage has been one of that country’s staple crops for centuries. Combining this leafy green with Ireland’s most iconic crop, the potato, this recipe has some fun hands-on tasks to it that even the youngest of sous chefs can help accomplish!
The recipe has three parts to it: the sauce, the filling and the final construction of the rolls themselves. If you are supervising helpers of different ages and kitchen experience, the prep can be assigned accordingly. The sauce’s two ingredients can be measured and mixed by a child of almost any age. On the other hand, the steaming and handling of the hot cabbage leaves from pot to paper towels is best left to the adult in the room or a child deemed old enough for stovetop work, albeit supervised closely. Whether you choose Melissa’s Parisienne or Roasted Baby Dutch Yellow® Potatoes, both are pre-cooked so the only stovetop prep required is the steaming of the cabbage leaves.
The choice of Napa cabbage for these rolls was chosen over regular green cabbage because this ingredient is much easier handle. Actually, the choice was made as a result of my own first attempt at this recipe using regular green cabbage, which was a disaster! The tightly packed leaves of regular cabbage require just too much patience to peel without tearing into pieces – it was a very, very tedious chore. There are many on-line HOW TO tutorial videos on doing this job and, at some point, your young helpers should tackle a regular cabbage head. However, right now, the point is to inspire interest in cooking, and tedium is counterproductive to that goal. Napa cabbage has elongated leaves, similar to romaine, which even the youngest of sous chefs can pluck apart easily.
I used mostly Melissa’s Parisienne Potatoes mixed with a few of the company’s Roasted Baby Dutch Yellow® Potatoes to add some roasted flavor to the rolls. I poured both right from their packages into the processor; in hindsight, it would have helped that process along by cutting up the Parisienne potatoes into smaller pieces. As stated in the text of the recipe, the goal is a chunky smooth mash so the filling has some texture. Also for texture, whether deli-purchased corned beef or leftovers from your St. Patty’s Day meal is used the meat should be sliced medium thin; a great opportunity for your most experienced kitchen helper to hone his or her slicing and dicing skills. Again, a little thickness to the diced beef also contributes texture in each roll.
The roll assembly is the fun part and should be tried by a child of any age as a great culinary confidence builder. Each cabbage leaf, when laid out flat, will have a very thick base stem that should be sliced off to facilitate an easier roll-up. Supervise young hands as the sides of each leaf needs to be folded inwards as the leaf is being rolled upwards to insure a tight, fully encased filling for the bake. To allow for a learning curve of this procedure it would be wise have a few extra steamed leaves on hand by purchasing a large head of Napa if you have a choice. Happy St. Patty’s Day!
Irish Cabbage Rolls with Mustard Sauce
Makes: 6 rolls
1/3 cup spicy stone ground mustard
½ cup mayonnaise
4 TBS water (to thin the sauce)
6 large Napa cabbage leaves, separated, steamed
1 pkg. Melissa’s Pre-cooked Parisienne Potatoes or Roasted Baby Dutch Yellow® Potatoes
½ pkg. Melissa’s Cleaned & Sliced Leeks (option – 1 Melissa’s Belgian Style Trimmed Leek, sliced)
2 TBS milk (if needed)
½ lb. Corned beef, cooked, thinly sliced and diced
What the kids can do:
Sauce: In a small bowl combine mustard, mayonnaise, stir until well combined and set aside (water will be used later).
Cabbage leaves: Once steamed, carefully remove leaves from pot with tongs and lay them out on paper towels while making the filling.
Place the potatoes, leeks and half the mustard sauce in a food processor and mix until chunky smooth. Add a little milk to help blend the mixture; the goal is creamy with small chunks of potatoes to provide texture.
Transfer the potato mixture to a large bowl, fold the corned beef until well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cabbage roll assembly: Spread cabbage leaf out on a flat surface. Slice of the inch or two of thick stem at bottom of leaf. Spoon a line of the filling just below center of leaf. Then roll the bottom of the leaf over the mixture, fold in the left and right sides while rolling up until filling is completely sealed.
Place each roll seam side down in a baking dish. While the rolls are baking add a tablespoon of water at a time to the remaining sauce to thin it out until it reaches a desired consistency. Serve family style or individually with a little mustard sauce poured over each cabbage roll.
What the supervising adult should do:
Napa leaves are very long – I used a large, oblong roasting pot to steam them. The chunky consistency of the potato filling is critical to the success of this dish, so closely supervise and encourage your helpers to stop to test the mixture a few times during processing to avoid ending up with creamy smooth mashed potatoes. Bake at 350° until heated through and the top of each roll starts to brown – about 20 to 30 minutes.