Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
From all of the reading of posts, responses and chat sessions on the internet, the one thing I can truthfully say is that stuffed cabbage roll recipes anger so many people! It causes such strife that is so mind-blowing, I just have no words! Honestly - it's just food.
Stuffed cabbage rolls are known in over 50 different countries. That means there are at least 50 different ways to make this dish! Then you have the smaller regions of certain countries. then you also have "this is how my Mom/Grandmother used to make it". Folks, I am here to tell you that there is no one way to make stuffed cabbage rolls. If someone is sharing their stuffed cabbage roll recipe, that is a very special recipe because it is often a dish that has been passed down from one generation to another. The fillings can be different. The grains can be different. The sauces can be different. The cooking-methods can be different. This is a multi-cultural, multi-generational food dish that has no boundaries and certainly no one-method applies.
My version uses the Romanian method of using a little vinegar in the boiling pot of water. It not only adds more flavor to the cabbage leaves but it helps give the leaves more pliability when it comes time to wrap the filling. The filling is nothing more than typical, easy ingredients but with Hungarian paprika. The sauce uses some intensely fresh farm-stand ingredients, only a couple spices which include cumin. This version was definitely a good seller at restaurants and is a big hit in the home as well. Welcome to my version of how I enjoy preparing stuffed cabbage rolls!
INGREDIENTS - FILLING: 20oz/567g Ground Beef - (can use any ground meat) 4-5 C Extra Long Grain Rice - par-cooked 16oz Tomato Sauce 1/2 Bell Pepper - finely diced, optional 1/2 White Onion - finely diced 4oz Tomatoes, finely diced 2oz Garlic, finely minced Kosher Salt - to taste Black Pepper - to taste Hungarian Paprika - to taste
1 Green Cabbage head - core removed 8oz Red Wine Vinegar Water
INGREDIENTS - GARDEN TOMATO SAUCE 32oz Chicken, Vegetable or Beef Stock 8oz Tomato Paste 8oz Tomatoes, finely diced 4oz Onions (Variety), finely diced/sliced 2oz Garlic, sliced 1/4 C Dill, dried 2TB Butter 2TB Olive or Vegetable oil 1 TB Cumin seed (plus more to taste) Kosher salt - to taste
Black Pepper - to taste
1.) Start by par-cooking your rice first. A rice-cooker is the best tool to have to achieve this. Or, cook your rice the night before and let it cool prior to packing up for the fridge. Set this aside in a mixing bowl. 2.) Grab your cabbage and remove any questionable outer leaves. You will need to remove the core with a knife. In to a pot, add your cabbage, the vinegar and water. Get this up on high and boil for approximately 20-30 minutes. You should start seeing some of the leaves looking softer. Shut off the heat, drain and let the cabbage head cool off in the pot, off to the side. 3.) Into a medium pot, you will add the ground meat, tomato sauce, the vegetables and the spices from the "filling" ingredient list. Keep stirring this to allow the mixture to come together. The spices are going to be up to you as far as how much you prefer. Cook this for approximately 3-5 minutes. It's ok if the ground beef is not fully cooked. This is still going to be finished off in the oven. 4.) In the mixing bowl of rice, gradually add your meat-tomato sauce mixture and mix this well. Make sure to taste-test this mixture to see if you need more seasonings.
5.) On to the sauce! Take a medium pot and your Kosher salt, black pepper and cumin seeds in to the butter and oil on medium to medium-high heat. We want to bloom the spices which will take only a couple of minutes. Grab your vegetables and add them to the pot. Give them a good stir to help avoid burning. By the time the spices bloom, the vegetables will cook and create a beautiful gardenly flavor for the next 3-5 minutes.
6.) Add your tomato paste at this stage and do NOT walk away! Stir this vigorously into the vegetables, oil and spices as you will want to get the heat all over this. You may start to develop a fond at the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring to avoid burning this. Continue to cook for about 3-5 minutes. 7.) Add about half of your chicken stock to the pot. Start stirring this to help incorporate the tomato paste mixture. Once this has mixed, add more stock gradually. Reduce the heat to medium at this point. Make sure to taste-test to see if you have to adjust your seasonings again. Once done, set this aside. 8.) Set the oven to 400°F/205°C - Time to start peeling the cabbage leaves from the head. Make a nice and neat pile on a cutting board. Bring your rice-meat mixture bowl over to the prep area. Lay one cabbage leaf out. Do not add more than 1/3 C of mixture as you still have to roll the cabbage leaf around the filling. You will be wrapping this cabbage roll up similar to an egg-roll. Place your filling about 1/3 from the bottom of the leaf. Bring the bottom of your cabbage leaf up in a rolling fashion. Bring the sides of the leaf up to keep the filling in place and continue to roll upward until the roll is complete.
9.) In a roasting pan or casserole dish, take some of your garden tomato sauce mixture and line the bottom with it. Once your cabbage rolls are all prepped, you will begin to place the rolls in the roasting pan/casserole dish.
10.) Take some of the garden tomato sauce and lightly dress the tops of the cabbage rolls.
11.) Uncovered, bake in the oven for approximately 20-30 minutes.