A pop quiz in culinary school is unlike any other.
In our school, every so often we would enter our classroom to find a bin on each station filled with a random assortment of ingredients. Our task was to create a cohesive dish featuring those ingredients.
Any avid viewers of the Food Network will recognize this challenge. It forces cooks to use their imagination and be resourceful, and to practice the necessary art of utilizing old ingredients before they are wasted. The biggest challenge was when the instructor would add a required theme: must be French inspired, must be an appetizer, must be vegan and gluten-free, etc.
This skill is fun to practice at home, too, and I occasionally challenge myself to a “pantry meal” week every few months as an opportunity to take stock in my pantry and use up some older items.
This week I decided to challenge myself to make a dinner using only what I had in my freezer and pantry and, as an added challenge, the main components must have been grown or caught here in Alaska. I came up with a salmon-stuffed roasted cabbage head with rosemary potatoes and a lemon beurre blanc.
1 medium head of cabbage
½ of a large salmon fillet, around 5 ounces
1 pound small red potatoes
1 stalk fresh rosemary
6 tablespoons butter
2-3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper
For the sauce:
2 tablespoons finely minced garlic
1⁄4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1⁄3 cup heavy cream
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
Salt to taste
white pepper (optional)
Boil or steam the cabbage and potatoes whole for 20 minutes, or until a knife goes easily all the way to the center.
Allow to cool before slicing the top to create a flat spot (to keep the cabbage stable and upright during prep and cooking). Then cut out the core and hollow the cabbage out with a spoon.
Generously salt the cabbage, inside and out, and drop 2 tablespoons butter inside.
Remove the skin from the fillet and chop and scrape with a knife until you have created a paste. Mix in the egg and just enough breadcrumbs until the paste will hold a shape. Season with salt and pepper.
Stuff the cabbage with the salmon, arrange 4 tablespoons butter on top, and cover with either foil or (even better) some cabbage leaves that likely came off in prep.
Toss your potatoes in a little oil and season with salt, pepper, and minced fresh rosemary.
Bake cabbage and potatoes together at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until the salmon reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees.
Allow everything to rest out of the oven while you make the sauce.
Put all the sauce ingredients except the butter into a small saucepan and boil until the liquid has reduced by 75%.
Slowly add the chilled butter, one pat at a time, melting completely before adding more. Go slow and keep whisking.
When all the butter has been incorporated, your sauce should be smooth and glossy. Taste and season, then serve immediately.
This was a fun experiment that taught me a lot of helpful information I can apply in other recipes.
Cabbage is versatile, so get creative! Maybe a beef meatloaf stuffed cabbage with tomato sauce? What about stuffed with beans and rice with cheese and sour cream? Your imagination is only limited to your pantry.
You have two hours, go!
Tressa Dale is a U.S. Navy veteran and culinary and pastry school graduate from Anchorage. She currently lives in Nikiski with her husband, 1-year-old son and two black cats.