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Smoked Oyster Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Roasted Red Pepper Puree and Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

A few weeks ago I found myself mulling over what to do with a head of cabbage and some tomatoes I had on hand that needed to be used.  I immediately thought of stuffed cabbage rolls, one of my favorites, but decided that I wanted to create something unique and different.  The recipe that follows is what I came up with and I have to give kudos to myself because this dish is absolutely delicious!  The first time I made this I used a sherry vinaigrette.  Yesterday, however, I thought what a great Irish recipe this could be and decided to use a warm bacon vinaigrette in place of the other vinaigrette to really bring out the Irish flavors.  Since I have Irish blood in my veins I thought this would be a great dish to prepare in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, which is exactly what I did!

Smoked Oyster Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Roasted Pepper Puree and Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
Smoked Oyster Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Roasted Red Pepper Puree and Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

I do want to point out, as you will see, this is not a quick recipe.  There is quite a bit of work involved, but much can be done a day ahead…right up to preparing the cabbage rolls, all ready to pop in the oven the next day.  I have made note of this in the recipe.  The only dish that needs to be prepared on the day of serving is the warm bacon vinaigrette, which is very easy and quick to prepare and can be done shortly before removing the cabbage rolls from the oven.


For the Smoked Oyster Stuffed Cabbage Rolls:

Ingredients

3 C sweet onion, finely chopped
4 C tomato (approximately 6 large), peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 head roasted garlic, prepared as instructed below (or 4 cloves fresh, minced)
2 – 3.75 oz cans Smoked Oysters in Cottonseed Oil
1/2 C fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped (or 2 tsp dried)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tsp salt
8 Large green cabbage leaves, prepared as instructed belowDirections

To Prepare the Cabbage Leaves:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the entire head of cabbage. Allow to boil for approx. 15 minutes, until the outer leaves have softened and making them easier to peel. Remove from the boiling water, place in a strainer, blot dry with a paper towel, and allow to cool. Once cool, carefully remove the leaves (I usually remove a few extra just in case one of the leaves rips). Using a sharp knife carefully slice the thicker part of the core away (do this in an inverted V shape), carefully leaving the majority of the leave intact. Set aside to prepare the smoked oyster stuffing. (Note – these can be made 1-2 days ahead of time and stored flat until ready to use.)

For the Roasted Garlic:

Roasting garlic is easy and the taste is sublime.  The roasting process softens the garlic flavor and adds a touch of smokiness. (I usually do a couple of heads at a time to be used for a variety of other dishes.) For this stuffed cabbage recipe it adds a further smoky undertone, enhancing the flavor of the smoked oysters.  However, if you don’t wish to do this step feel free to substitue fresh garlic in the amount listed above.  (Note: this too can be prepared 1-2 days ahead of time and stored in the fridge in its foil until ready to use.)
  1. To roast, take one large, unpeeled head of garlic. Thinly slice and remove the top head of the garlic to slightly expose the cloves. Rub the entire head of the garlic with olive oil and liberally sprinkle with coarse ground kosher salt and black pepper. Wrap in a small square of aluminum foil and place in the oven. Roast in a 400 deg. oven for 40 minutes, remove, and allow to cool slightly before removing from foil. Once cooled, remove from foil and set aside. When ready to use simply squeeze the whole head of garlic with your hand, turning the top upside down while gently pushing out the softened garlic.

For the Smoked Oyster Stuffing:

  1. In a large saute pan, cook the 4 bacon slices until crisp.  With a slotted spoon remove the bacon strips from the pan (reserving the bacon drippings). When cool crumble the bacon and set aside. Add 1 tbsp of the reserved drippings back to the pan (saving the rest of the drippings for the warm bacon vinaigrette) along with 1 tbsp olive oil and place on medium high heat. Once heated, add the chopped onion and saute for 1 – 2 minutes, just until onion begins to soften and becomes slightly translucent. Reduce heat to medium low and continue cooking the onions, stirring occasionally, for another 5-8 minutes, until very soft and translucent, being careful not to brown the onions.
  2. Add the chopped tomato, roasted garlic and salt. Continue cooking for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, allowing the tomatoes to cook to a very soft consistency.
  3. Gently stir in the smoked oysters (along with the cottonseed oil in which they were packed), the fresh parsley and basil and continue cooking until heated through, approximately 3-5 minutes. Remove from stove and allow to cool. (Note – this too can be made a day ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to assemble the cabbage rolls, or you can assemble the rolls, as follows, and store in the prepared pan 1 day ahead of time – all that will be left on serving day is to place it in the oven and prepare the warm bacon vinaigrette.)

To Stuff the Rolls:

  1. Place one prepared cabbage leaf on a flat surface and place the smoked oyster filling (about 1/4 c) onto the bottom third of the leaf, spreading out to within 1/2″ of each side of the leaf. Begin rolling the leaf away from you, tucking the sides onto the roll as you go.
  2. Once rolled, place seam side down in a greased 9×13 pan on which you have spread a thin layer (about 1/4 c) of the roasted pepper puree (recipe follows), repeating with the remaining cabbage leaves until you have 8 cabbage rolls.  Lightly sprinkle the tops of the rolls with a few drops of water.
  3. Cover the pan with foil, place in a preheated 325 deg F oven and bake for 40 minutes.
  4.  Remove from oven, leaving covered while preparing the warm bacon vinaigrette (recipe below).

Roasted Red Pepper Puree:

Ingredients

1 10-oz jar roasted red peppers
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp sugar

Directions

  1. In a blender or food processor add all of the ingredients and process until smooth. Place in a bowl and set aside until ready to use. This makes approximately 1-1/4 cups of puree.

Warm Bacon Vinaigrette:

Ingredients

4 tbsp rice vinegar
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp dijon mustard
Dash fresh black pepper
4 slices smoked center-cut bacon, fried crisp and crumbled, drippings reserved
2 tbsp bacon drippings
10 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. In a small bowl mix together the rice vinegar, honey, dijon mustard, and dash of black pepper. Microwave on high power for 1 minute. Remove, stir in the crumbled bacon, then briskly whisk in the bacon drippings and olive oil. Serve immediately.

To Assemble the Completed Dish:

Place approximately 1/4 cup of the roasted pepper puree onto the plate.  Arrange two of the prepared cabbage rolls on top of the puree.  Drizzle the warm bacon vinaigrette over the top and serve.

Nutrition Information:

8 total servings, 2 cabbage rolls each
Per Serving:  721 calories, 45 g carbohydrates, 56 g fat, 17 g protein
(This is definitely a “splurge” dish, but great for company or any other special occasion.)
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Lucky Black-Eyed Peas with Fire Roasted Tomatoes and Smoked Turkey – Happy New Year’s!

Happy 2015 everyone!  As I reflect  on 2014, I can say that it has certainly been a year of great joys, and great tribulations, as well.  Thankfully, however, the year has ended on a joyous note so I am feeling truly blessed and looking forward to a new year and new beginnings.

I am not an overly superstitious person by nature, but I have always observed New Year’s day with the preparation of “good luck” foods.  My favorites have always been in keeping with the southern tradition of serving black-eyed peas with rice and collard greens, and a nice big, buttery hunk of corn bread on the side (real butter only please).  It is said the black-eyed peas represent prosperity due to their similarity (and abundance) to the penny and collard greens represent “green money”.  That’s a definite plus in my book, so I will continue on each year with these superstitious traditions in the hopes that they come true.

I decided what better way to celebrate a new year and new beginnings than by sharing with you my favorite New Year’s Day Dish: Lucky Black-Eyed Peas with Fire Roasted Tomatoes and Smoked Turkey.  I created this recipe several years ago as a replacement to the traditional Hoppin’ John.  Don’t get me wrong, Hoppin’ John is very good too, but, well, I decided I wanted to “kick it up a notch”…and….so….I did!

How did I do that you may be asking?  Well, my dears, quite simply, I decided that the addition of fire roasted tomatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, hickory smoked bacon, smoked turkey, and additional seasonings were just the ticket to creating a fabulous dish of Black Eyed Peas.  And, oh, I was so very happy with the final dish.  This truly takes the oft-overlooked, and sadly neglected, black-eyed pea to a whole new level.

For those of you who are vegetarians this also makes a very delicious and nutritious vegetarian meal.  Simply omit the bacon and turkey and substitute veggie base or stock in place of the the chicken called for in the recipe.

Give this recipe a try ya’ll, I swear you will not be disappointed.

Lucky Black-Eyed Peas with Smoked Turkey:

Yield: 8 generous servings

4 slices Applewood or Hickory Smoked Center-Cut (thick) Bacon, chopped

1 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped (approx. 2 cups) (note – I cut all the veggies into big chunks being that they will cook down as they simmer)

3 large carrots, coarsely chopped (approx 2 cups)

3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped (approx. 1 cup)

1 tbs minced ginger

1 tbs minced garlic

1 large sweet potato, coarsely chopped (approx. 2 cups)

2 cups black-eyed peas, rinsed and picked over

1 14.5 oz can fire roasted tomatoes, undrained

10 cups cold water

1-1/2 tbs Better Than Bouillon Superior Touch Chicken Base (see note below)

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (2-3 tsp hot sauce can also be used in place of the red pepper flakes)

4 Smoked Turkey Wings (or 2 Smoked Turkey Drumsticks)

Note – for those of you who may not be familiar with Better Than Bouillon Superior Touch Chicken Base I strongly urge you to give this a try as it makes a great alternative to chicken stock or broth and I use it frequently where a large volume of broth or stock is called for rather than using bouillon. I was sold on it the very first time I used it and I haven’t looked back since.  The flavor is amazing and there simply is no comparison between this and bouillon cubes, although you may use chicken broth in place of the water in this recipe if you do not have the chicken base.

Saute bacon over medium high heat in a 6 quart dutch oven (or equal sized stock pot) until fat renders.  Add onions, carrots, and celery. Saute until slightly tender (5-7 minutes).  Add minced ginger and garlic and continue stirring for an additional minute. Add sweet potato and next eight ingredients, stirring well.  Place the smoked turkey into the pot, pushing down to ensure that the turkey parts are covered with water (or broth, if using).  If they are not, add enough water to cover.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for an additional 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring frequently and skimming foam from the surface.  Remove the pot from the heat and carefully remove the turkey, allowing it to cool slightly. Remove the meat from the bones and tear into bite sized pieces.  Return turkey to the pot and stir to incorporate.  Serve over rice, if desired, along with collard greens and corn bread for a truly delicious New Year’s dinner.

Lucky Black Eyed Peas with Tomatoes and Smoked Turkey Wings
Lucky Black Eyed Peas with Fire Roasted Tomatoes and Smoked Turkey Wings

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do.  It is truly one of my favorites.

May you enjoy this New Year’s day surrounded with loved ones and good cheer, and may all your hopes and dreams be fulfilled in this wonderful new year!

Happy New Year
Have a Very Happy New Year from My Family to Yours!