When he showed me his heart

Beef and Cabbage Buns with CheeseWe met in kindergarten. I love to tell people that when they ask. And it’s true. We did. We met when he had a blond afro and I thought leggings and unicorn shirts were the best thing since sliced bread and Post Toatsies.

What girl wouldn’t want a story like that? The only problem is, by the time I was 26, I wouldn’t have recognized him walking down the street. (I’d have checked him out. Slyly of course. But that’s a whole different story.)

I also like to tell people we met through his mom. That’s true too. Though she wasn’t trying to set him up with anything more than a basketball playing companion.

Cooks Country Bierocks

The real story, the one that hardly ever gets told, happened on a cloudy April Wednesday. It happened in an I Love Sushi parking lot when the rest of the world was busy working.

It’s not a story about his height or the way his white, cable knit shirt clung to his body. To his biceps. To his chest. It’s not about the red motorcycle or the blue eyes or the high cheekbones. It’s not the small vein that was twitching on his neck or the calluses on his large hands. Those were nice. But they weren’t it. 

This is a story of three steps.

It’s a simple one of a distance that can be covered in less than a second. Even as I write it now, it seems silly. Walking towards a woman rather than waiting for her seems inconsequential. But it wasn’t. It isn’t. Those three steps showed me his heart.


Meaty Buns or Bierocks (Beef and Cabbage Buns with Cheese)

Adapted from Cook’s Country
Makes 12

That day Garrett also showed me how much he could eat. Sometimes, I think the boy is all stomach. It’s nearly impossible to keep up with him. And if you’re not careful, feeding him can cost you an arm and a leg. He’s the kind of fella who can put away four servings and still be looking for fifths.

That’s why, when I saw these buns in Cook’s Country, I knew they’d be perfect. The ingredients are cheap, relatively speaking, and they can be made ahead of time and stored in the freezer. Plus, the filling can be adapted and changed based on what you have on hand. (See additional filling ideas at the bottom of the recipe.) 

I made a few small changes to the original recipe such as extra onions. Because really, can you ever have too many onions? What follows is my favorite way to make them.

4 tsp vegetable oil (olive oil will work too)
2 pounds ground beef (90 percent lean or leaner)
salt and pepper
2 onions, chopped
½ small head green cabbage, cored and chopped (about 4 cups)
3 cups chicken broth
8 ounces Colby Jack cheese, shredded (I’ve also used cheddar) 

Heat 2 tsp oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown beef, seasoning with salt and pepper (about 1 tsp each). Break into pieces and cook until liquid evaporates and meat begins to sizzle. Drain meat in a colander and set aside.

Add remaining 2 tsp oil to Dutch oven and heat over medium-high heat. Add onions and brown, allowing to reduce in size by half. Stir in drained beef, cabbage and broth. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until cabbage is tender (about 5 minutes). Uncover and continue to cook until liquid evaporates (10 – 15 minutes). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool until room temperature. Stir in cheese and refrigerate until ready to assemble.

1 – 2 TBS olive oil
½ cup whole milk
½ cup water
6 TBS unsalted butter
¼ cup sugar
3½ cups flour
1 TBS instant or rapid rise yeast
½ tsp salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten 

Grease a large bowl with olive oil. Set aside. In a microwave safe liquid measuring cup, combine milk, water, butter and sugar. Microwave until butter has melted and mixture is 110 degrees. (About 1 – 2 minutes for the butter to melt. You’ll most likely have to wait for the temperature to come back down.)

Using a stand mixer with a dough hook, mix flour, yeast and salt. While the mixer is running on slow, gradually stream in milk mixture and beaten egg. Allow liquids to become fully incorporated.

Increase speed to medium-low and continue to mix dough until it is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl (about 8 minutes). Transfer dough to greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size (50 – 60 minutes).

1 large egg beaten with 1 TBS water

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Divide filling into 12 equal helpings. Cut dough into 12 equal sections. Work with one section at a time and keep the remaining sections covered with plastic wrap.

Using your hands, roll dough into a ball. Roll the ball into a 5½-inch circle. (Rather than a rolling pin, I used a tall, smooth plastic glass.)

Place 1 helping of filling at the center of the dough circle. Pulling the outer edges of the circle up and to the center, completely seal the ball. Place ball, sealed side down, on one of the prepared cookie sheets. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Place six balls on each cookie sheet.

Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for another 50 – 60 minutes. Discard plastic wrap. Brush with egg wash (1 large egg beaten with 1 TBS water). Bake until golden brown, 22 – 25 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking.

Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

To Make Ahead
Baked and cooled buns can be tightly wrapped in aluminum foil and placed in a freezer safe bag. They can then be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month. To reheat, place foil-wrapped buns in a 350 degree oven. (10 minutes for refrigerated ones and 60 minutes for frozen ones.)

Additional Filling Ideas
Lamb, Feta and Onion
Sweet Potato, Asparagus and Gruyère
Shredded Beef, Potatoes and Cheddar

About Mikaela Cowles

I’m a food-gobbling, book-reading, aspiring photog. Born and raised in Seattle, I love dancing in the rain, bouquets of fresh basil and green grass between my toes. I like how kneading butter into flour makes my fingers soft. I’m passionate about all things sweet potato. I prefer my coffee black, my scotch on the rocks and my steak bloody. I hunt, when I have time; play basketball; and hike. I’ve been known to laugh so hard I hyperventilate. And, I’m the owner of Making Language Count, a boutique freelance writing business.

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