A Comfort Food Rethought

Last week I told you Hubby still wasn’t feeling well; he (finally) took himself to the doctor to learn he was suffering from Walking Pneumonia.  This form of the illness is not necessarily life-threatening, but it is a lung infection that drains your energy and prevents sleep at the same time it demands it.  He came home with an antibiotic and proceeded to sleep in his chair for two days.  As he regained his sense of smell and taste this week it made sense to make him one of his favorite dishes: Cabbage Rolls.

The head of cabbage was large enough that I decided to make my family’s traditional recipe and play with the filling with the rest of the leaves.  Since I can’t use the tomato in my mother’s version, I use broth (yup, our home-made) to cook the rolls in.  I believe the tomato comes from a Polish recipe while the broth is more traditionally (southern?) German.  But there are variations of cabbage rolls from much of Europe and Asia.  Hubby warms some of the tomato sauce I made him this summer to put over the rolls as he enjoys the combination.

To mix things up I began thinking of what else I could fill the cabbage with.  The lamb filling from the Dolma would be amazing.  How about lentils with curry, chili or Garam Masala for a vegetarian version?  Traditional fillings are pork, beef, or lamb, but I am sure are just as good.  Fish?  What ethnic seasoning combination wouldn’t be fun to try.  Pork with ginger and soy sauce in Napa Cabbage?  Savoy, red or green head cabbage, pickled or fresh… the possible options are unlimited.

Needing to work the Locati Cellars tasting room at the last-minute, I had less time to play than anticipated.  Hubby, my driver, as I can walk but not yet drive after my surgery, was in charge of choosing what to pick up to fill the remaining cabbage leaves.  Ground turkey that I combined with onion, turmeric and Garam Masala, also cooked in the broth as that is what I had available.  These smelled heavenly as they cooked and they are wonderful!  Traditional Polish Cabbage Rolls can be served with yogurt, I took out a bit of my locally made sheep milk yogurt to have with this and it is fabulous!

Stuffed Cabbage Balls

  • 1 large head cabbage
  • 1-2 lbs lean ground beef
  • ½ lb ground pork (not necessary, but flavors well)
  • ½ cup par boiled white rice
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • ½-1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 can crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 1 can V-8 style juice
  • 1-2 Bay leaves

Cut the stem from the head of cabbage, steam in two inches of boiling water (stem side down)in a large pot until the leaves are cooked, 5-8 minutes (they should be pliable, but still firm enough to work with). Cool the head of cabbage, maintaining the stem side down as the water drains through the cabbage best that way. When cooled, peel leaves from the head as carefully as possible, set aside to finish cooling.

To par boil the rice put rice and an equal amount of water in a saucepan, bring to a boil, simmer until water is gone. Let cool.

In a large bowl, place all meat, rice, etc. and work until well mixed. Form balls to fit the cabbage leaves, rolling the leaves around the ball of meat. Place each roll, seam side down, in a large pot, layering until they are all in. Place the bay leaves among the rolls; pour tomatoes & juice over the whole pot, just covering the cabbage. Cover and simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours to cook the meat thoroughly. This can be done in the oven if you are using an oven proof pot (dutch oven style or in a lasagna pan) at 350*F.

Serve hot with liquid from the pan or thicken to a gravy if desired.  A piece of fresh rye bread is my favorite accompaniment to sop up the broth at the end of my meal.  But potatoes would be just as good.

Ok, your turn, does your family have a favorite Cabbage Roll recipe?  How do you serve it?  What else would you like to try wrapping?  Since the rolls freeze well and are easy to heat, they make a quick mid-week evening meal or nutritious lunches for work/school.

Happy New Year to everyone. Cheers!
Happy New Year to everyone. Cheers!

Have a spectacular and safe New Year’s Eve celebration and ring in 2017 with those you love close by.  Cheers!