TorTazza Tatin

TorTazza Tatin

Thank god sweet Friday. Okay, so maybe it’s going a little overboard by renaming a mug cake (and a packet mix at that!) after a dessert classic like Tarte Tatin, but I just couldn’t keep this to myself. When I made TorTazza apple pie mug cake the last time, the results were okay but the apple pie flavor didn’t quite hit the mark. So the question begged to be asked: how can I make this thing better? And that’s when the idea of apple slices sauted in butter, sugar, and cinnamon came to mind.

Folks, this is a no-brainer, an instant gratification sugar fix, and I bet it would work with any mug cake recipe. I suppose you could also use canned apple pie filling, but be sure to butter the bottom of the mug (a wide type with curved bottom) to facilitate release.

And the winner of the best cazoeùla in Cantù is…

Cazoeùla on the menu
Our favorite pick this year: cazoeùla at Le Querce.

…not who we were rooting for. Well, there’s always next year. La Cascina di Mattia took the trophy, bringing the 5th Festival della Cazoeùla to an end. Like last year, we had lunch at 3 (first time visits) of the 9 participating restaurants and our vote went to Le Querce. That’s a plate of their cazoeùla above. It was perfect: fork-tender pork rib, melt-in-your-mouth pork skin (cotenne), both green and white parts of the cabbage, excellent balance of flavors and not too salty. It was so good that it even warranted another photo after attacking the rib.

Cazoeùla-licking good
Rib-lickin’ good!

Coming in 2nd: Osteria del Km Zero. The odd thing about this place is that our plates came out less than 10 minutes after we ordered. Assembly line in the kitchen? The cazoeùla was good, but the experience was far from memorable.

Cazoeùla - 'tis the season!
Wiki wiki cazoeùla for quick eaters

And bringing up the rear: La Nuvoa Rustica. Pork rib so tough that I had to chew forever but it wasn’t enough, which made it impossible to get a balanced mouthful of cabbage and pork going down the hatch at the same time. I felt like one of those jaw-grinding dieters who chew in order to trick their minds (and stomachs) into thinking that it has had enough.

Cazoeùla at La Nuova Rustica
I am not full, I am not full, I have been tricked!

Chou farci au saumon (salmon-stuffed cabbage)

Millefeuille de chou vert et saumon

If this dish is tickling something in the back of your brain, you might remember it from the movie Haute Cuisine (original title Les saveurs du Palais) that came out in 2012. Haute Cuisine is among my top 10 favorite films involving food, and the salmon-stuffed cabbage in one mouth-watering scene continues to inspire me in this very modest home version. Although it has been 5 years since the film hit theaters, I still get goosebumps when actress Catherine Frot sets a wedge of this on top of a pool of champagne sauce.

This is my 3rd attempt at salmon-stuffed cabbage so it’s about time I shared the results and maybe a few tips. It’s a really simple recipe in concept; it’s the layering that requires more patience than anything else. Savoy cabbage is best as it doesn’t turn soggy and translucent like white cabbage during cooking time. The movie’s protagonist uses Scottish salmon and carrots from the Loire, but hey, we’re not cooking for the French president here.

1 large head savoy cabbage
1.5 – 2 pounds salmon fillet
sea salt
6-8 cups fish broth made from the salmon scraps

Trimming cabbage
Carefully trim and remove 9 outer leaves from cabbage. Trim the thick part of the center rib.

Cabbage leaves and salmon
Slice salmon fillet on the diagonal into 3/8-inch (10 mm) thick portions. Season lightly with sea salt.

Blanched cabbage leaves
Blanch cabbage leaves a few at a time for 5 minutes; drain and pat dry.

Salmon stuffed cabbage

Assembling the cabbage step-by-step

Before making the stuffed cabbage, bring at least 4 cups of the fish broth to a simmer in a large pot. Have a wooden spoon or dowel ready for use.
1. Line a colander with cheesecloth and place 4 of the largest cabbage leaves around the sides.
2. Arrange the first layer of salmon slices at the bottom.
3. Cover with one cabbage leaf, trimming to fit if necessary. Repeat with 3 more layers of salmon alternating with 2 cabbage leaves.
4. If there’s some salmon left over, by all means keep going, but leave the final layer of salmon exposed as it will be covered by folding over the outer leaves like so.
5. Gather the corners of the cheesecloth around the cabbage and secure with kitchen twine. Tie the ends around a wooden spoon and gently lower into the simmering broth. Add more broth to cover the cabbage (if you run out of broth, use water). Bring back to a gentle simmer and cook for 40 minutes with the cover propped over it.
6. When cooking time is over, remove and allow to drain in colander for 10 minutes. Carefully remove cheesecloth and set the stuffed cabbage, bottom side up, on a cutting board. Slice into 4-6 wedges and serve with steamed carrots.

Layered salmon-stuffed cabbage

Tips: try seasoning the salmon with dried dill, and save time by prepping the cabbage leaves the day before. Champagne sauce is supposed to be served with this but I used homemade mayo with a little dijon mustard added to it and thinned with a touch of cream.