Hunger will make you do crazy things...like lick the mayo knife, eat leftover croissants in the office kitchen that are clearly past their prime, and, ahem, start obsessive cooking blogs on which you hang your every future hope and secret dream.
And sometimes, hunger will inspire you to create something that is so utterly ridiculous, it actually comes out delectable. And that, my friends, would be the case this evening.
I had a minor fiasco at PetSmart (not worth recounting) which sent me far out of the way for cat food for my (very hungry) kitty. On the way home, I considered stopping at every take-out place I passed, and even started fantasizing about a char-dog from you-know-where. Only the drive to write this kept me going the (excruciating) 5 or 6 blocks home.
This dish is exemplary of "what-the-hell" cooking. For those of you not familiar with the technique, it's when - blinded by ravenousness - you keep seeing things in your refrigerator that you feel compelled to chop and add to your skillet.
Hence, my inner monologue went something like this:
"I still have that half a cabbage...it's like that cabbage is neverending...almost magical. And I have a little more butternut squash...and that half an apple that's wrapped in plastic...ooh! And kielbasa! More kielbasa than Poland ever DREAMED of! That could be good...maybe I'll just put it all in a skillet. Oh, and - should I serve it with a fried egg over the top? Ah, what the hell."
May I present the fruits of my (stream-of-consciousness as well as my) labor:
CABBAGE & APPLE SKILLET WITH KIELBASA AND A FRIED EGG
I'd like to tell myself that this is something that would pique my interest on the cover of Bon Appetit, but rather, I can only chalk it up to temporary hunger-induced insanity.
1/3 kielbasa, cut into thin slices
1/5 head of red cabbage, thinly sliced
1/3 of an apple (any kind), cut into small chunks
1/4 of a butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into small chunks
juice of half a lemon
1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
salt and pepper
fresh thyme leaves
Heat the olive oil and butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the squash and apples in a single layer in the pan. Season with salt and pepper, and allow to sit in the pan without stirring for a few minutes, until they're starting to get some color (don't be a wimp - let them get brown edges). Stir them around until they begin to get tender.
Add the cabbage to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes, then add the lemon juice and thyme. Cook for a few more minutes, until the cabbage is crisp-tender. Remove the mixture from heat, leaving the pan on, and keep warm.
Add the kielbasa to the pan in a sigle layer, and let the first side get nice and crisp and dark. Flip each piece and cook on the other side. Remove from pan and drain excess fat on a paper towel. Leave a little grease in the pan, and return to heat. Crack an egg in the pan and fry for a couple minutes on each side, until the white is set and browning at the edges, but the yolk is still runny.
Place some cabbage mix on a plate, top with the sausage, then top with the egg. Enjoy!
This dish may seem a bit bizarre at first (and I PROMISE, this will be the last of the cabbage-and-squash posts), but it actually did have some root in classic flavors; cabbage and apples are often cooked together, and both of those things are served frequently with kielbasa (it's a very Polish-food-inspired dish). The fried egg, admittedly, was a last-minute addition, but I think it actually did work.
It was a good meal - not the best meal, maybe not even a great meal, but a good one. It was arguably healthful (I ate about half of what I cooked) - high in protein, with lots of flavorful veggies to round it out. Kielbasa is by no stretch of the imagination a lean meat - it is sausage, after all, but a lot of the fat cooks out in the pan, and if you drain it, it becomes a lot better for you.
If I were to change this meal in the future, I'd actually cut the kielbasa into little dices, rather than slices - like pancetta - and cook it during the last few minutes of the cabbage saute. In fact, this meal would be glorious with pancetta in place of the sausage - or even regular old bacon. As for the fried egg, it gave it a really earthy, rustic taste and feel; it just made it rich and filling, in a good way. I can even see modifying the dish a bit and serving it for brunch.
And lest we forget, it's time for the PARTY OF ONE PRICE INDEX!
KIELBASA: 49 cents
CABBAGE: 44 cents
BUTTERNUT SQUASH: 36 cents
APPLE: 28 cents
LEMON: 50 cents
I got about one and a half servings out of this, which brings our per-serving GRAND TOTAL to...
If there is a moral to this post, it would be that standing in front of the glow of the fridge and saying to oneself, "What the hell," can really pay off. I'd like to think that that's what the world's best chefs do, on occasion. (But maybe only when they're really, really, hungry.)
Thanks for reading! More soon...