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Home of Good Eats
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Head Games Transcript


SCENE 1
Food Gallery

    Good evening and welcome to the food gallery. This humble collection houses the food stuffs of childhood nightmares, the "eat-them-they're-good-for-you" foods. Perhaps you recognize some our specimens: peas, liver, prune juice, bran cereal and, of course, the head of the class, the cabbage. Unbeknownst to most, this famed forage of the unfortunate was framed, not only by malicious, well- meaning parents but by millennia of positive press.
    In his 479 B.C. block buster known today as the I Ching, Confucius went on for pages about the health benefits of cabbage. Later, during the golden age of Rome, orator and poet Cato the Elder, credits his 28 sons to a high- cabbage diet. Romans also hold that cabbage munching allows one to imbibe unlimited volumes of alcohol without suffering intoxication. Whether Kato subscribes to this or not, we can only guess.
    1558, Flemish refugees fleeing religious persecution at the hands of the king of Spain, bring cabbage to the shores of England, a country later accused of having but three vegetables, two of which are cabbage.
    1769, forty of Captain Cook's crew are injured by storm upon the Courageous. The ship's surgeon dresses the many wounds with cabbage leaves, thus staving gangrene.
    The fact that cabbage prevented many of Americans from succumbing of starvation during the great depression may be one reason cabbage consumption has never fared well in this country. After all, who wants to be reminded of hard times?
    But, is it really fair for us to blame cabbage for being cheap and nutritious? Perhaps it's high time we got ahead and got to the core of what cabbage is all about. You might, after all, perhaps, find good eats.

SCENE 2
Kroger: Alpharetta, GA - 9:07 am

GUEST: Deborah Duchon, Nutritional Anthropologist

    About half of the vegetables bought and sold in this country are technically cabbage. Now, how can that be? Hey, what do I look like? A nutritional anthr ...

DD: A nutritional anthropologist? In your dreams.
AB: How do you this?
DD: Study. Write papers. Go to conferences. What do you mean?
AB: Not exactly what I meant. But while you're here, tell us about cabbage.
DD: Okay, well, cabbage began as an indigenous weed that grows all over the rocky coast lines of Europe and Asia.
AB: Okay.
DD: And ancient people used to collect it, collect the seeds at least, and they'd cultivate it. And when the got an especially large specimen, they would save the seeds and replant them and after a couple of centuries they'd had kale.
AB: Okay, but I bet it didn't stop there, did it?
DD: No. The same process was happening all over Europe and Asia. And different people were coaxing different characteristics out of the same gene pool. So for instance, the Germanic peoples really like the thick, fleshy stem hence kohlrabi.
AB: Oh, cabbage.
DD: Cabbage.
AB: Okay.
DD: In Southern Europe, they were finding that they could develop tense, dense little clusters of, um, leaves, and they called it caboche
AB: Oh, caboche. That's old French for 'head'.
DD: Right. And that's the derivation of the word cabbage.
AB: Okay. What about these other guys.
DD: Same thing was happening in Asia, Savoy cabbage, bok choy, ...
AB: Bok choy.
DD: ... napa, they're all just dense clusters of leaves.
AB: Okay, did it stop there?
DD: No. When you go to Italy, you know how innovative the Italians are. They like things real pretty and everything. Well, they like these cabbages that have a lot of flowers on them, little tiny flowers. And so they resulted in cauliflower and later on broccoli.
AB: Okay, so you're going to tell me that, uh, cauliflower and broccoli are cabbage.
DD: Cabbage.
AB: Invented by the Italians.
DD: Afraid so.
AB: Great. I suppose that next you're going to tell me that these little guys [Brussels sprouts] came from, uh ...
DD: Brussels Belgium.
AB: Brussels Belgium. Okay. So. How do you like them?
DD: Anything but Brussels sprouts.
AB: You don't like the Brussels sprouts? Ah, you don't know what you're missing.

    A few rules for happy head hunting: look for tight, dense heads that are heavy for their size and bright green. The cut should be moist and bright as well, although, not green. Now, any wilting or yellow spots signal advanced age or rough handling either of which will result in nutrient loss.

tight, heavy heads
bright leaves & cut
no wilting or spots

    Now, why yellow? Green vegetables contain two types of chlorophyll: chlorophyll A which is bright blue-green and chlorophyll B which is bright yellow-green. Together they balance to form a green vegetable's color the way that, uh, red, blue and green go together to make a TV picture. Now if the two are in balance, the cabbage looks healthy and normal. Kind of like, well, this. But, chlorophyll A is fragile and if it gets too warm it breaks down and fades. That leaves chlorophyll B all on its own thus yellow spots. Same thing happens during cooking but more on that later.

Chlorophyll "A"

Chlorophyll "B"

    Now, your grocery may have placed a trashcan by the cabbage bin so that you can leave your outer leaves behind. We say spend a half cent extra and keep'm.

SCENE 3
The Kitchen

GUEST: Caroline Connell, Dietitian
            Mad French Chef on Guitar

    Of course, the whole head is darned good for you but these outer darker leaves contain especially high concentrations of vitamins A ...

CC: ... vitamins A, B, C, potassium, Folate, cancer hating phytochemicals, endols, phenols, there's loads of fiber and, of course, sulforaphanes— the stuff that saved Captain Cook's crew.
AB: Is that it?
CC: No, but that's enough.
AB: Hmm. Okay.
CC: Hey, didn't we talk about this? [removes pie from fridge]
AB: Well, uh ... a friend ... um, I ... [sighs]

    Even if you don't eat these, these outer leaves will save you, or at least your head, from drying out. Kept intact and stored in the crisper drawer of a 34 to 38 degree refrigerator, this thing will keep fresh for amazing 4 to 6 weeks. But once you cut it, even if you wrap it, you've only got a couple of days to spare.

4-6 weeks

AB: Come back with that pie. I'm serious. I'm not going to ...

During the 1920s Americans ate 27 pounds of cabbage per year.
Today, the average is only 9 pounds.

SCENE 4
The Kitchen

    Here are two versions of a Zen-simple cabbage application my mom invented called Shred, Head, Butter and Bread. Now, the line dividing this version which looks, tastes and smells just like an army sock and this version which is light, bright, sweet and delicious is very, very thin and perilously easy to cross.
    In fact, the only way to avoid having this happen is to know a little something about this. [produces layers of varying sizes of bubble wrap] Now, just bear with me. Let's say for a moment that this is a greatly magnified cross-section cutaway of a vegetable leaf. [pause] Yes, bubble wrap again. [referring to the Salad Daze episode]

    Now, let's look inside. You'll see cells, lots of layers of cells doing different jobs:  maybe photosynthesis here, maybe metabolism down here, reproduction over here. And in between all of these cell layers you've got membranes are keeping things protected, keeping one chemical away from another chemical, keeping everything full of liquid. This is a very, safe, ordered world. There's even a substance like cement in between all of these cells which holds everything together. Then along comes you, the cook. And you bring with you heat. And that always looks [turns on hair dryer] like this.

cells

membrane

    [voice over] As membranes burst, peptic substances gel, enzymes are unleashed, pigments fade. A few minutes later, hydrogen sulfide is released filling your kitchen with that rotten egg smell.

    No matter how you look at it, we're talking about wide spread destruction—no matter you cook it, no matter how gently you think you're doing it. The secret, of course, is to control the chaos. And that means deciding what gets destroyed and when it gets destroyed. But enough talk, we cook.

    On this side of the kitchen fill your biggest pot three quarters full of water and put it on high heat to boil.

lots of H2O
+
high heat

    Then in your big skillet, melt a half a stick of butter and add half a cup of pulverized seasoned croutons. Yeah, I know. I said on Salad Daze that I didn't use packaged croutons. Well, I don't, not as croutons at least. But, hey, when you smash them into little bits, they're good for all sorts of things.

1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup pulverized croutons

  To that, add a couple of big pinches of dry mustard and a teaspoon of caraway seeds. Just stir it over medium heat until the butter turns brown and the kitchen starts to smell kind of like nuts. You get there, you're done. Take it off the heat but leave it in the pan because we're going to come back to that later. Now, on the other side of the kitchen.

2 pinches dry mustard
1 tsp caraway seeds

stir over medium heat

    You know, while we're on the subject, I've seen a lot of good edges go bad all because they hooked up with the wrong cuttin' board. It's enough to give a fella the blues.

    [singing]
    You say you've saved up your money,
    And you bought yourself a knife,
    Don't you go and cut on the wrong board, boy,
    She'll bring you trouble and strife.

Say you saved up your money...
bought yourself a knife.
You go and cut on the wrong board boy...
...she'll bring you trouble and strife.

    Aw, yeah that glass, it's pretty,
    Whoa! Marble's handsome, too.
    But ya, go and put your blade to 'em baby,
    Cuttin' board blues.

Oh yea, that glass it's pretty...
...marble's handsome too.
But you go and put your blade to 'em baby...
...cutting board blues.

 

(For the love of all that is good and decent, don't try this at home.)

    You say you want to make your blade last?
    Aw, you say you're going to treat it good.
    Well, you best put down that sheet pan, boy,
    And get into some plastic or some wood.

... say you want your blade to last...
...say your [sic] gonna treat 'er good.
You best put down that sheet pan boy...
...and get into some plastic or wood.

    Cause there ain't no blade out there,
        honey, uh-uh,
    That ain't going to stay honed and true,
    If you go and treat it like it's, like it's some,
        I don't know,
    Some junkyard power tool ...

Cause there ain't no blade out there honey...
...gonna stay honed and true.
If you go and treat it like its...
...some junk yard power tool.

SCENE 5
Work Shop

    Hi and welcome to another episode of this old, well, new cutting board.

    You know, when it comes to wooden cutting boards there are basically two different designs. Butcher block boards are made up of dozens or even hundreds of pieces of wood cut across the grain and then glued together. They're tough, heavy and expensive. In fact, larger versions are often turned into furniture.

butcher block

  Now, more common edge grained boards aren't quite as tough and thin specimens tend towards warping. But, they are lighter and a whole lot cheaper than the bigger butcher blocks.

edge grain board

    Now, either way you decide to go, look for a board that's made from a kiln dried maple, okay, and make sure that it's big but not too big to stand on end in the sink. After all, if you can't it into the sink, you can't wash and that's not good. Now, this board's not going to be cheap. But if you take good care of it, your grandchildren will fight over it and that's a happy thought.
    Now, despite the iffy press, I use wooden boards a lot but only for foods that are safely consumed raw. That means no raw meat. For that, ...

SCENE 6
Bed, Bath & Beyond: Marietta, GA - 4:19 pm

... there's plastic.
    Since they are non-porous and kind of on the slippery side, plastic boards are inhospitable to bacteria and a heck of a lot easier to wash and sanitize than even the best wooden boards. Now, I've got one for just raw meats. I cut poultry on one side and meat and fish on the other. Now the only downside about plastic boards is that once they are worn and scratched, they are pretty much done for, because all the scrubbing in the world is not going to get those little bits of bacteria chow out of the cracks.

    Now, when wood gets scratched, just sand it with the grain, wash it, then rub it down with a food-grade mineral oil available at your neighborhood pharmacy. Do not use any other kind of oil. Food oils just go rancid and furniture mineral oils will put you in the ER.

food oils = rancidity
furniture oils = ER

    Now, uh, I disinfect my boards from time to time, both the plastic and wood boards, with a white vinegar rub down followed by a rinse and air dry. Now plastic boards can be sanitized in the washer but never, repeat, never put a wooden board in a washing machine [sic, dishwasher]

sanitize with
white (distilled) vinegar

Since the sun doesn't set all summer long, Alaska is known for the size of its cabbage; heads weighing 75 pounds aren't uncommon.

SCENE 7
The Kitchen

    Finally, shreddin' time's here. Now when we last visited our cleanly, cloven head, we were getting ready to cut it into quarters. The reason for that is that we want it to get it divided so that there's a piece of this core in each piece of the cabbage.

core

    Now as long as that is there, we can not shred. So, we want to just slide right down and clip that out. Now, all of those leaves are technically separated. So, lay it like this with one of the curved sides away and slice, don't chop, straight down. Now you don't want that first piece because that doesn't  qualify as shred. Feed that to the rabbit. Then come in and just use your fingers as a guide and slice the cabbage into strips. Now, I like to use a big knife for this because I get better slicing action. But what you don't want to do is you do not want to use a high-carbon steel knife, black steel knife, because it will stain the cabbage.
    Now, for a little dingy head like this, this is pretty easy. But if you've got a really big, kind of honking big bowling ball head, you might want to peel off the top layer of leaves, which is usually flat, lay it out, shred it, then go for that inner, tighter ball and shred it. It'll take a little long but, uh, you'll get through it.
    As for this dish, I really do prefer to use smaller, tender heads. Not because they are easier to cut, but because they are sweeter.

    Houston, we have boil. Now, before this goes in the water, add a tablespoon of salt—I like kosher but it doesn't really matter—and a tablespoon of sugar. And I'll tell you why in a minute. Now once that has dissolved, go with the cabbage.

1 Tbls kosher salt
1 Tbls sugar
1 small heads worth

    Now you'll notice almost as soon as it hits the water, the color is going to change. It's going to get brighter. And that is because the gas that used to be trapped in the cells is being released. And with that out of the way, you actually get to see what the chlorophyll really looks like. Now, set your timer for 2 minutes.
    Now, what else is going on in here? Well, about 5 minutes from now, acid is going to start invading the chlorophyll molecules, turning this bright shad of green, well, to kind of dingy gray. And, sulfur is going to start leaking out and start stinking up the kitchen.

    But, you can have clean air and you can have your green and eat it, too. You just have to do two things. You've got to cook very fast and you've got to cook in lots of water. The high volume of water is going to kind of de-saturate the acid, dilute it, and the open pot is going to allow it to evaporate. Now, the sugar is going to help preserve the cells, the plant cells, that's going to keep the cabbage crunchy, and the salt, well, besides adding seasoning which it does, is going to slightly elevate the boiling temperature. That means faster cooking. And when it comes to cabbage, speed is good.

cook fast
lots of H2O

    Now there are some old cookbooks that suggest that, uh, you can throw a penny in the pot or you can toss in a couple of spoonfuls of just baking soda to enhance the green. And it's true, soda and copper do enhance the pigment. But, for one thing, this [penny] is toxic and soda basically turns vegetables to mush.
    Two minutes of TV time have gone by. Time to drain. Now, you could drain this directly into a colander, but I like to use the basket from my salad spinner. Please stand back and away from the steam. There. Because spinning is always, always faster than straight draining. So, into the strainer, lid it up, and give it three, four good spins. Remember, the dryer the cabbage is the better the butter dressing will stick to it. There we go. Perfect.
    Now, just toss this right into the dressing and toss it with your tongs. And we've talked about these [tongs], right? There we go. Just toss until everything is coated with the caraway and the dressing. Now, once again, you see that basic, straight-forward science has produced some basic, straight-forward good eats. And the best part of all, is that we didn't even need one of these [gas mask].
    Okay, now granted, not all cabbage dishes are built for speed. And now all cabbage is green.

    Braised cabbage and apples. It's a classic, right? Because it's delicious. The problem all to often the cabbage comes out of the pan looking like a wet army jeep. The secret to success, red cabbage. You see, unlike the chlorophyll in green cabbage, red cabbage loves an acidic environment. The reason? Anthocyanins.

anthocyanins

    Knowing how to manipulate the pigment in red cabbage, anthocyanins, is the secret behind the old red wine, white wine bar trick. First, bet a friend that you can change their merlot into chardonnay using only the power of your brain. Once they've laid down their Jackson, misdirect their attention momentarily, add a few drops of ammonia—which is a powerful alkaline—and then voilà!  Red has become white. Take the money and run.

Suggestion: spill this wine before your friend has a chance to taste it.

SCENE 8
The Kitchen

    The other thing I really like about red cabbage is that it is, well, as the guys in the tall white hats like to say, bullet proof. It means that it can stand up to a long cooking process which braising is.

    Now it all starts with a big sauté pan over medium heat. Add a couple of tablespoons of canola oil and swirl it around and follow it with one granny smith apple.  Cubed, peeled, the works. Now, the whole point here is to just get a little brown on the apples. Now, apples are delicious, yeah, but their acidity is what's important here because that's what's going to keep the final dish red, not blue.

big pan
medium heat
2 Tbls canola

1 Granny Smith
peeled, cored, cubed

    As soon as they take a little bit of brown on them, we're going to add even more acid in the form of a pint of unfiltered apple juice. Just pour it in carefully. Don't let that hot fat jump up on you. And to that—you can go ahead and turn the heat up all the way—hit it with a quarter teaspoon of caraway seeds, about a teaspoon and a half of kosher salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and of course, the cabbage. I love this part. There. Now give it a shake just to get everything coated. Turn the heat down to low and set your timer for 20 minutes.

1 pint unfiltered apple juice
1/4 tsp caraway
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
black pepper
1/2 red cabbage, shredded

heat to low

    Now, caraway is not referred to as "the cabbage herb" simply because it tastes great. There are medicinal issues as well.
    These ancient cousins of anise and cumin are actually dried fruits, not just seeds. And they're said to possess many powers, not the least of which is the ability to limit cabbage's production of hydrogen sulfide, and that keeps your house from stinking like a rotten egg. Now the very best caraway comes from Holland. Buy it whole and use it within about 6 months or grind it fresh. Now during Shakespeare time, they actually dipped apples in it. That's pretty good.
    Twenty minutes of TV time have gone by and, uh, our cabbage, well, look at that. It's just tender but not all gushy. If you like it gushy, you could go another 5 minutes. Now, all I smell are apples and caraway, nothing that even faintly reminds me of a paper plant. Now as for the pigment, it has persevered.

    Of course, if you want to give it just a boost, give it a little extra acid, lemon juice, right before serving. Oh, and, uh, I usually cut the acid with just a pat of butter.

acid enhances color

1 pat butter

    Due to its chameleon-like character, cabbage traditionally finds itself playing second fiddle to a host of more traditional entrées. But, around here, we believe that cabbage is worthy of leading dish status.

SCENE 9
Food Gallery

    Just as sweet even when she's slow. We hope we've opened your mind and appetite to the delicious possibilities of cabbage. After all, we made it, the least thing we can do is eat it. Besides, there are more deserving candidates for infamy. [places a plant of spinach on the platform where the cabbage was] That, of course, is another episode of "The Food Gallery."

SCENE 10
The Kitchen

AB: You play it, Frenchy!


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Last Edited on 08/27/2010