While cooks often relegate cabbage to coleslaw, its 39-cents-per-pound price makes it an appropriate choice for a fresh vegetable to include in February dinners. Russian cuisine, which developed amid some of the world's most brutal winters, relies heavily on cabbage.
Even though this winter (finally) promises to be taking a milder turn, we have borrowed from the Russians for a simple, quick side dish flavored with pungent caraway seeds. Low-sodium chicken bouillon granules add flavor to the cabbage, which needs no extra kick from additional salt. The low-sodium bouillon granules are usually available in supermarkets. If you don't use the low-sodium bouillon, be extremely careful with added salt.
The butter used to flavor the chicken should be fairly cold so that it becomes fluffy during beating. Warm butter simply turns slimy and greasy when beaten. Fresh herbs are infinitely preferable to dry ones, but sometimes hard to get in February. Substitute any fresh herb you have, if you like; tarragon goes particularly well with the cabbage-caraway flavor but so would dill or parsley.
If you have a little wine on hand, use this to deglaze the pan used for baking the chicken. Set the meat on a platter, put the pan over a flame and add a little wine--half a cup or so. Boil quickly until the excess liquid is almost gone (butter will remain in the pan--it doesn't evaporate) and use this as a sauce for chicken and rice.
It is assumed that every kitchen has flour, sugar, salt, pepper and some type of oil or fat.
EXPRESS LANE LIST: chicken, tarragon, onion, chicken bouillon, cabbage, caraway seed, mushrooms, rice and wine (optional).
BAKED CHICKEN TARRAGON (4 servings) 4 tablespoons cold butter 1 teaspoon dried tarragon (1 tablespoon fresh) 1/4 teaspoon black pepper Salt to taste 4 chicken breasts (or an equivalent amount of chicken to serve 4) Wine (optional) 2 cups cooked, hot rice
Combine cold butter, tarragon, black pepper and salt in a small bowl. Beat until light and fluffy. Refrigerate about 15 minutes. Spread on chicken and place the breasts on a rack above a shallow roasting pan. Bake the breasts at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, basting occasionally with melted butter (breasts should be just beyond pink on the inside). Dark meat will take about 10 minutes longer. Use wine to deglaze the pan as instructed above, if desired. Serve with hot rice.
RUSSIAN CABBAGE (4 servings) 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 1 medium onion, sliced 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced 1 small head cabbage, tough core removed and sliced 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
Heat oil in skillet and add onion. Cook until the onion is translucent. Add sliced mushrooms and cook until they have given up much of their liquid and are dark. Add cabbage, bouillon and caraway seeds. Cover skillet, reduce heat to low and steam about 10 minutes. Remove cover and stir. Leave the skillet uncovered and cook 5 to 15 minutes more, until residual liquid has disappeared and cabbage is cooked to desired degree of doneness.