Thursday, October 21, 2010

Country XII - Finland

Sorry it's been a couple of days since I posted. Had date night with DH one night, and then I was sick yesterday, but now we are back on track.
So Finland. I really had very little idea what was traditional in the way of food in Finland. But after doing some research I learned that cabbage rolls and mashed potatoes is one of the traditional dinners there. I was happy to learn this, for I love both cabbage rolls and mashed potatoes.
I was very excited, and pleased with the outcome, but this dinner was rather time and effort involved! But I decided, since it was so delicious, that it was worth it.
Let's start with the mash, since that was easier.
Peel and chop some potatoes, and boil them until they are fork tender.

Mash them roughly with a fork.

Now, the secret to great mashed potatoes is 1) these two ingredients, and 2) not being at all shy with them:

(Don't use fat free half and half if you want a fluffier mash, I just used this to make them slightly more runny, in the European fashion. I normally use regular, fattening half and half.)

Add the cream and butter, and whip with an hand mixer. Again, I used a lot of fat free half and half to make these potatoes the more traditional European way.

Now, on to the cabbage rolls. First, get some white rice cooked and cooled. Then, brown 1 lb. of ground beef. Next, take 1 head of cabbage and cut a deep cone shape in the bottom, removing the core.
Drop that, bottom side down, into a large pot of simmering water, and cook until the leaves are tender. I removed the leaves one at a time with tongs to drain in a colander:
Let those cool a bit and finely chop up some onion. Now, combine the rice, ground beef, onion, heavy cream, white pepper, salt and egg yolks. Warning, this mixture will be quite runny, so prepare to have a very messy counter-top. So, roll up about 1/3 cup of the mixture into each cabbage leaf, placing seam side down into a very well buttered baking dish (I used a 9x13). 
Now, my mom always topped her cabbage rolls with tomato sauce, but I read that the traditional Finnish way of preparing these was to mix equal parts melted butter and molasses and brush the tops with that mixture. So I mixed 3 Tbsp. butter and 3 Tbsp. molasses (next time I think I will use more than that) and brush the tops of the rolls with 1/2 of the mixture. 
Bake those at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Then, turn the rolls over and brush with the remaining molasses mixture. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake for 90 minutes longer. 
Serve with those delicious mashed potatoes. One thing to make this dinner preparation easier to just make the potatoes ahead of time, and just reheat them in the microwave before serving. Enjoy!

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
1 lb. ground beef, browned
1 cup cream
2 egg yolks
1 med. onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup cooked short grain rice (I used about 2/3 cup to help soak up some of the cream)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 large head white cabbage
Cut a deep cone-shaped incision in the bottom of the cabbage and remove the core. Place whole cabbage, bottom side down, in a large saucepan, at least half submerged in simmering water. Cook until leaves start to soften. Remove gently with tongs and drain.
Mix together beef, rice, onion, egg, cream and spices. The mixture will be runny. Stuff leaves, rolling tightly. Place cabbage rolls seam side down in a wide, generously butter oven pan. Mix equal amounts melted butter and molasses and brush rolls with 1/2 of the mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Flip rolls over and brush with remaining molasses mixture, reduce heat to 300 degrees and bake for 1.5 hours. Turn rolls every 30 minutes if desired. Cover with foil if the rolls are browning too quickly. 

Mashed Potatoes
I'm afraid I have no recipe for these. The amounts of everything you use depends on how many people you are serving. Today I used 6 medium potatoes, about 5-ish Tbsp of butter and about...uh...maybe 1 cup of half and half. (Remember I was making the potatoes runnier than usual). The amount I made today would serve about 3-4 people.

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