Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Roll 'em Up Cabbage Rolls

A Two for Tuesday Recipe 

This is one of my favorite recipes, using my own personal favorite, unsung, and under appreciated "hero" ... the cabbage.

I take you step by step on how to prepare the cabbage leaves, make the bundles and even what steps you can do ahead of time. My recipe incorporates some non-traditional methods, and spices, like using a cooked onion mixture, balsamic vinegar, and a dash of nutmeg.  The sauce is simply a marriage of tomatoes, good beef stock, red wine and a splash of balsamic vinegar. It's cooked down while you prepare the bundles and doing this imparts a real depth to the flavor to the sauce. Cheers to my hero ... the cabbage.

Serves 4

10 cabbage leaves, blanched.

Onion mixture:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 pinches of salt
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup beef stock

Meat mixture:
1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 the cooked onion mixture
1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon onion powder
3 - 5 gratings of nutmeg or 1/4 teaspoon of powdered nutmeg
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cooked white rice

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Except for the cooked onion mixture, this can be done one day ahead and all you need to do is add the cooked onion mixture on the day of cooking.

1/2 the cooked onion mixture
14 oz canned whole tomatoes
2 pinches of salt
1/2 - 3/4 cup beef stock
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Separate 10 leaves from a head of cabbage. See further below for some tips on separating the leaves and cutting out stem. Half way fill a medium sized pot with water, bring to a boil, add a half teaspoon salt once boiling. Working with leaves, two at a time, boil for two minutes and place in colander to drain. This step can be done one day ahead, just keep the leaves stored in the fridge in a lidded container.

Heat a stainless steel skillet over medium heat, add oil, onions and two pinches of salt. Cook for 7 minutes, stirring frequently, then stir in garlic, cooking another 2 minutes. If pan starts to dry out add a splash of beef stock and stir through. Deglaze pan with Worcestershire sauce and vinegar, then add remaining stock. Cook until most of the liquid evaporates. Take of heat and add 1/2 the onion mixture to the ground beef and pork mixture, leave the remaining half in the pan to make the sauce.

For the sauce, place pan with onion mixture over medium heat and add the whole tomatoes. Break up the tomatoes with you hands as you add them or with a spoon in the pan. Allow to simmer for about 5 minutes. Take 2-3 tablespoons of the sauce and add to the bottom of the pan you will be baking your rolls in, spread evenly. Add remaining ingredients to the sauce, cook for another 10 - 15 minutes at a low simmer.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

While sauce cooks prepare your cabbage rolls. Pat dry the cabbage leaf  and lay  it flat on your cutting board. Place 1/3 cup of the meat mixture in the top third, form it into a small rectangle, see photo. Fold top of leaf over, then fold over the sides and then roll down into a bundle. Place in baking pan. Repeat for remaining leaves. Pour sauce over rolls. Cover pan with foil. Bake for 30 minutes, remove foil, spoon sauce over rolls and bake another 20 minutes without the foil.

Serve with mashed potatoes or white rice. ENJOY!!!

Recipe Notes:
I've indicated steps that can be done ahead to save you time on the actual cooking day but you can also make dish a day ahead as well.
The amount of meat mixture to use in each roll is noted as 1/3 cup, however, some leaves are going to be a bit smaller and some larger, you can add a little less or a little more to match the size of the leaf.


A lot of recipes call for boiling the entire head of cabbage and then removing the leaves you need.  I think this is pretty wasteful, if you aren't planning on using the rest of the cabbage. I have found that if you cut the leaf at the base of it's stem you can pretty much "pop" the leaf out without tearing it. You just need to slide it off carefully.

You should remove the tougher portion of the stem, before cooking. Instead of a knife, I use my kitchen shears, and it make this task so much easier.