Over the holidays, I was lucky to spend time with my whole family. Each year I look forward to a Ukrainian feast at my Aunty Cheryl's house. We have an amazing spread of North American classics like turkey and mashed potatoes, as well as Ukrainian staples like cabbage rolls, nalysnyky and perishke – all prepared by my aunt. You can almost taste the love and time spent in the kitchen making these dishes in the soft textures and creaminess of these dishes. These big meals are special to me not just because of the food, but because they're occasions when the whole family spends the evening together. To me, it's very important for the whole family to eat and talk together at the dinner table.
I created this dish to pay homage to my family's Ukrainian dinners. I combined the flavours and components of the cabbage rolls and nalysnyky into one dish. If you've never had the pleasure of trying nalysnyky, it is a decadent, Ukranian crepe, rolled and stuffed with cheese and smothered in a dill cream sauce. In this dish, the flavours pair beautifully and make for the perfect comfort dish to share with the family.
8 cups milk
4 cups 36% heavy cream
1 tablespoon salt
6 tablespoons white vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 head Savoy cabbage, cut into small wedges
1 tablespoon Canola oil
¼ cup white wine
4 cups ricotta whey (as much as you get from the ricotta)
1 garlic clove, smashed
8 sprigs dill
4 cups cabbage braising liquid (or all of the liquid)
2 cups 36% heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
Combine the milk, cream and salt in a large pot and place on the stove over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture up to a boil, making sure the dairy doesn’t burn and stick to the bottom of the pot. Stir the cream often with a wooden spoon. Add the vinegar to the mixture and take the pot off the heat. Let it sit for about five minutes. Test the mixture by stirring it with a spoon, you should see fluffy curds and whey.
Place a piece of cheesecloth over the top of a strainer. Place the strainer over a large pot. Pour the mixture over the cheesecloth, separating the curds from the whey. Let the ricotta sit for about 30 minutes to strain off the whey.
Reserve the whey for later. Place the ricotta into a food safe container and place it in the fridge for later.
Cabbage & sauce
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Place a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the canola oil to the pan. Once the oil is slightly smoking, place the cabbage in the pan, cut side down. Season the cabbage pieces with salt. Sear the cabbage until dark brown. Turn the heat down to very low and add the wine to deglaze the pan – make sure the pan is off the heat before adding the wine to avoid flaring the pan. Once the wine is almost completely reduced, add the rest of the ingredients. Cover the pan with a lid and cook on low until the cabbage is tender, about 15 minutes.
In a small pot, add the cream for the whey sauce and place it over low heat. Reduce the cream by half.
Once the cabbage is cooked, remove it from the braising liquid and set aside on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
Strain the braising liquid into a small pot. Discard the dill, chives and garlic. Start to reduce the braising liquid over medium-high heat, just as you did with the cream.
Once both the cream and the braising liquid have reduced by half, combine them into one pot. Continue to reduce the mixture on low until it slightly thickens. It’s thick enough when the sauce can coat the back of a spoon. Take the sauce off the heat and slowly whisk the butter in.
Place the cabbage in the oven to warm it up for about five minutes.
Once warmed, plate the cabbage seared side up on a plate. Garnish the cabbage with small dill sprigs. Pour the sauce over the cabbage and serve.