This much Russia knows: the chilly, early days of spring go hand-in-hand with cabbage. Throughout the countryside, rows of cabbages can be found poking through the ground even as the last freeze thaws. The tough, squeaky heads are impenetrable to all but the peskiest of creatures, but give them some attention with a sharp knife and persistent flame and you’ll see why cabbage is the pride of Russian home cooking.
From cabbage rolls to borscht, Russian cookbooks are fat with ideas to use up the spring harvest – and at a mere $2-$3 per head at the market, it’s tempting to attempt them all. But if I had to pick just one, cabbage pie seems to shows off the humble vegetable’s truest potential.
Cook it up with little more than butter, a smattering of onion and lay it between sticky spoonfuls of sour cream batter… bake, then slice into neat squares and you’ll have a feast fit for any potluck. (We took it over to our neighbor’s potluck party; the casserole was cleaned out in mere minutes!)
The ingredients are simple enough…
For the filling:
1 head cabbage (medium), cored and chopped
1 large onion, sliced thinly
3 tablespoons butter
3 eggs (hard-boiled)
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 egg (raw)
For the batter:
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 cups flour
How to make it.
Personally, I like cabbage pie with character, which means two things: First, take the time to really soften the onion and cabbage in the pan – that’s where the flavor builds…
… second, season generously with salt and pepper (a little extra pepper adds welcome bite). Think of this way: scrambled eggs without a good shake of salt and pepper are terrible. The same goes with cabbage pie, especially since there’s a few hard-boiled eggs in the mix.
Once the filling is cooked and seasoned, the sour cream batter comes together with a few turns of a spatula…
Spread a little batter on the bottom of the pan, add the filling, and then spoon the remaining batter on top. Use the back of a spoon or spatula to spread evenly across the top. The coating might seem sparse but it puffs as it bakes and turns out to be just right. Wait a few minutes before slicing – the pie holds together better that way.
Enjoy on a chilly spring day – warm or at room temperature.
Remember – there’s great joy in sharing a table with your loved ones. Take the time to make your meals into adventures… into memories worth reliving.