Sunday, October 09, 2005

Bagna Cauda & Halupki!

No, I'm not speaking another language...well maybe. Let me explain.

Bagna Cauda (pronounced Báhn-yah Ców-dah) means "hot bath" in Italian. My Dad is Italian. No, he's not taking a hot bath but cooking for us. This is the only dinner he makes. We usually have it once a season when all the vegetable are just perfect from his garden. And this dish is sure to bring his children home. We can't resist it. All Mom has to say is "Daddy's making Bagna Cauda" and we rearrange our schedules to be there. It's a tradition from my life that I love. We had it two Fridays ago and yum, was it good! What is Bagna Cauda? It's sort of a sauce...a dipping sauce...a fondue if you will. You then dip raw vegetables into the sauce for a few seconds and dab it on slices of Italian bread to catch the drippings and then you eat the bread. We use cabbage, peppers and cauliflower. The recipe comes from the Piedmont Region in the Northern part of Italy. My Dad is from Northern Italy. There are different versions but this is ours. It always starts in a small heavy bottomed skillet. Not a non-stick. He uses a cast iron skillet but it's not neccesary to have one. To the skillet add about 1 1/2 cup of a good olive oil and 1 stick of butter. Heat on medium heat. Just as that starts to warm up, throw in about 6 cloves of garlic sliced thin and a can of anchovies. Do not add it when the oil is hot or you'll fry the garlic and not blend the flavor into your sauce. Cook for about 10 minutes until the garlic browns and the anchovies dissolve. You can turn down the heat and then you are ready to enjoy. **Note** These amounts can be varied to your liking. Most of the time Dad ends up adding more butter and olive oil as we are eating it because we love it so much we tend to gorge ourselves on it! My family likes to stand around the stove with a slice of Italian bread in one hand and our dipping vegetable in the other. My Mom cuts the cabbage in wedges, the cauliflower in florets and the peppers in strips. And yes, we double dip! It's the only time in our family when double dipping is permitted! Yum! When the pieces get too small to dip, we use a fork for the last bite. If you feel more comfortable putting it in a fondue pot and having it at the table then go for it! I personally love the atmosphere around the stove. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I love traditions and it's one of my favorites. Just a couple of other notes on Bagna Cauda. I only use one slice of bread to catch my drippings. The rest of my family will have 5-6 slices of bread. My Mom and I like scooping the anchovies onto our dipper. My Dad, sister and brother prefer the garlic slices. I love the cabbage and sometimes throw in a cauliflower floret for variety. The rest of my family prefers the peppers. It's good no matter how you like it but it's definately not low fat...but the vegetables are good for you!

Halupki a.k.a. Stuffed Cabbage Rolls or otherwise known as my favorite comfort food is a tradition from my Mom's side. She is Polish. And, of course, I only like her recipe. It's so yummy! She always makes it with lots of broth/sauce and serves mashed potatoes with it and you use the sauce on your potatoes. I don't do it that way. Although I love mashed potatoes, I don't need anything else when I have big plate of Halupki in front of me. I made them Thursday night and had Curtis put them in the oven when he came home from work on Friday since he gets home before I do. They were all I could think of on Friday at work and when I walked into the house on Friday night and smelled them, I couldn't wait to get them out of the oven and into my tummy! I think I ate too many. No, I KNOW I ate too many. That's okay, I don't make them very often because Curtis doesn't like them but he loves my stuffed peppers. I hate stuffed peppers but I make them for him. Forget that! Let's get back to MY favorite! Here's my recipe which is my Mom's recipe which is her Mom's recipe. I shared this once on the aol scrapbooking message boards but after making them last week, I adjusted the recipe to fit what I did since it's never been written down. It's just something I learned growing up. Something I will pass down to my daughter since she loves them too. In fact, after having leftovers yesterday, she thanked me for them! Isn't she sweet?

Cindi's Family's Halupki (Stuffed Cabbage Rolls) Recipe

1 large head of white cabbage or 2 small (I like two small because the cabbage is more tender)
2 lbs. ground meat
1 c. white rice (not instant)
3 cans tomato soup
2 eggs
salt & pepper (a few shakes of each)
2-3 T. dry minced onion

~Cut core out of cabbage head and cover with boiling water in large stock pot. Boil cabbage until leaves begin to fall off the head with a little help from you. I stand at the stove and peel one leaf off at a time. Drain leaves. With a sharp knife thin out veins along the spine of each cabbage leaf. Do not cut the vein out.

~Mix together ground beef, rice, 1 can of tomato soup, eggs, minced onions, salt, pepper and not quite a 1/4 cup ketchup.

~Assemble cabbage rolls. Lay the leaf with the vein part towards you, put a little of the mixture on top of the vein, fold in the sides and then roll. There is no set amount to put in each leaf because the size of the leaves vary. Place in roaster with the seam side down. I place the larger ones around the outside of the roaster. I also cut up the remaining cabbage in approx. 1 inch squares and place on top.

~Pour the remaining tomato soup (2 cans) over the top of the cabbage rolls. There is no measurement to this but squirt ketchup over the rolls in a sporadic fashion. Not too much...don't cover the entire top...kind of like if you were putting chocolate syrup over a sundae. But make sure you put enough on it because it adds the "tang" to the tomato soup. Next pour a little more than 3/4 of a can of water over the entire mixture.

~Cover and cook for 1-1/2 hours at 350 degrees. If you make more than 2 pounds of ground meat, you'll need to cook it longer.

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