Tuesday, August 7, 2012

mormon comforts

sorry i'm such a spazzy photographer, but here's finnish dish.  she's not pretty, but she's good!

luckily, i had already prepared to cook one of my favorite childhood comfort foods for dinner tonight.

then i saw joanna brooks' book of mormon girl giveaway with a bonus stitchery piece* in the offering to boot.  (the embroidery reads:  "never underestimate a mormon girl."  amen to that.)


i'm sure the holy ghost prompted me, guided me to purchase the ingredients at the market this morning to make a little thing called finnish dish with the enormous summer-sweet cabbage in my crisper.  pretty sure the h.g. wanted me to get right on the task of winning a copy of the expanded version of book of mormon girl. 

(even if i don't win, this gives me the excuse of going on and on about one of my beloved topics:  home cookery.)

this was a dish i loved as a girl, and rediscovered as the cook for a large family on a budget.  moses told me tonight it was the most delicious dinner he had ever eaten, right after we had a slightly freaky theological discussion, the likes of which only a seven year-old could devise.

isn't the definition of a classic comfort food the thing you liked to eat more than anything in the world when you were seven, starving after a day of running around the neighborhood shirtless, and worrying about if you will miss your mom when you die and go to heaven?

my mom was a better than average cook.  in fact, she was rather well known for her rolls, sweet rolls, and banquet-like sunday dinners.  her food heritage included a grandfather who was once the state beekeeper of utah and an avid gardener, a mother who used herbs and tinctures harvested from the environs, aunts and a grandmother who cooked whole grains and sweetened with honey.  so we had a health food influence to our mormon cuisine. so, no soupy casseroles for us (besides, my dad hated casseroles.)** we were lucky that my mom was mostly into whole foods even before "whole foods" was a phrase in common parlance.

to me, this recipe falls in line with the health food tradition, because, believe it or not, ground beef was not anathema to health food in the '70's.  i've built on the tradition by adding more vegetables (specifically mushrooms) and less beef, and even have a vegetarian adaptation for my two vegetarian children. plus, i like that it follows the commonsensical word of wisdom guideline to "eat meat sparingly".

i've also built on the deliciousness tradition by adding some butter and using my beloved koshihakari sushi rice instead of. . . non-special rice.  you could leave some of the butter out, or eliminate it all together if you're that opposed to pleasure.

finnish dish

i don't know that this dish actually has finnish roots, nor do i know if it is really a mormon dish, but it seems like it is because there are a lot of mormon dishes that retain the name of a national origin long after the dish has morphed into pure americana.  maybe it's finnish because it's like a deconstructed cabbage roll?  i have no idea.  i'm curious if anyone else grew up eating this.

the key to this dish is slicing the vegetables finely and caramelizing everything just bit.  also, we grew up eating it with ketchup.  i now serve it with fresh tomatoes on top instead, because it benefits from a little acidic zing.

1 lb. ground beef
1 medium yellow onion, sliced into thin half-moon circles
1 small head cabbage, sliced as thin as your knife skills allow
1 lb. brown mushrooms, sliced
4 T butter, 2 for mushrooms & 2 for beef and cabbage
S& P to taste

2 c. good short-grained rice (uncooked)
4 c. water
2 T. butter
1 t. salt

*put rice on to cook.  combine water, butter, salt in sauce pan and bring to boil.  after rice comes to a boil, stir, cover, turn heat down to medium low, and cook for 24 minutes.

*meanwhile, heat large skillet to medium high.  begin browning beef.

*meanwhile, in a separate medium skillet, brown sliced mushrooms in 2 T. butter.

*when beef is browned, add sliced onions and butter.

*when onions have softened, add cabbage.

*when vegetables and meat are a little brown and caramelized, add browned mushrooms.

*season to taste with salt and pepper.  make sure you do this well.  your dish doesn't have that many elements, so they all need to be good.

*serve over rice.

here's the vegetarian version for ingrid and lula.  i added snow peas and sweet red pepper, because that's what i had.
* i need to win this for ingrid marie asplund, who loves rozsika parker's the subversive stitch, is the oxymormon columnist (a column she devised) for the bryn mawr college news about mormons and feminism, and who once gave this amazing sermon in church about mormons, vegetarianism and seasonal eating, which was later picked up for publication in the fabulous edible wasatch.

**embarrassingly, i was once asked to bring funeral potatoes to a, um, funeral luncheon, and i made potatoes gratin from scratch, because i really didn't know there was a canned soup version, nor did i know that it was the expected variety for a, um, mormon funeral.  it can take a lifetime to learn all the rules!


  1. Yum, I can't wait to make this Lara! I always thought it was finish dish as in you finish off whatever veggies you've got in your fridge. My only complaint were the green bell peppers mom cooked into it.

    1. maybe you're right, kristin! or, as in "finish" off the rest of the food in your fridge before marketing day. i just assumed it was "finish". maybe i was wrong.

    2. also, do you remember texas hash? that was another favorite of mine.