Bob & Diana celebrate Orthodox Christmas in the kitchen
(this is what our kitchen looked like after 7 hours of cooking)
In a nod to Bob’s Ukrainian side of the family, we decided to celebrate Orthodox Christmas this year, which is January 7th.
We want to be honest up front – we’re only in it for the food – none of the other ‘trappings’ of those high stress holidays.
Bob remembers standing in his Baba’s kitchen while she ate cloves of raw garlic making pans and pans of holubtsi (cabbage rolls) and pedaheh (perogies) and teaching him a few things a long the way – little tricks that only a true Baba, who’s spent decades in the kitchen, would know.
Here, we have chronicled our day in the kitchen. (literally 8 full hours of prep, cooking and cleaning)
There are a few tips included and we know many of you likely have your own tips to share on how your family cooks these delicious comfort foods in the winter.
Part 1 – preparing the cabbage rolls (and the cook). We heard from many people that they freeze their cabbage to make the leaves more pliable but we also learned that when those previously frozen leaves are then cooked, they are quite tough. If you want soft cabbage rolls you can’t beat this method.
Part 2 – making the filling. Some people told us they made their cabbage rolls with raw hamburger meat. We cooked ours first with onion, rice and canned tomatoes. It was beautiful, moist and delicious.
Part 3 – stuffing the cabbage rolls. (there are some good tips here that will help you roll the perfect specimen)
Part 4 – getting them into the oven. Many recipes we looked at called for either tomato paste diluted with water or tomato juice. We thought we’d splurge and upgrade our ‘peasant food’ a tad with a high end spaghetti sauce (Sicilian Sunday Gravy from Zehrs $7.99/jar) We added some water and poured two jars over our pan of cabbage rolls. We found it really made a difference in taste. Purists be damned!
Part 5 – then it was on to the perogies. I have to say we’ve made these twice in our 17 year relationship, 16 years apart and both times we have failed miserably with the dough. We used flour, vegetable oil and water but for some reason it just wasn’t coming together for us and the dough was dry and wouldn’t roll out for us. We got half the number of perogies from our recipe and they dough was too thick and chewy.
Part 6 – the best part! Sitting down to platters of home made perogies and cabbage rolls. Despite our lacklustre performance with the dough, they were still delicious. And lets face it…vodka helps anything go down a little easier.