Being Eastern European, I think I have a natural affinity for cabbage. I love the stuff. I think Cabbage is incredibly versatile, it can be eaten raw, sauteed, stewed, fermented, pickled and perhaps my favorite, stuffed.
Stuffed cabbage is one of those comfort foods that just makes me happy. It reminds me of home and my Czech/German mother. Eating this dish feels like I have been transported back to the old country in a place long ago and far away... In Czech stuffed cabbage is holubky, in Polish, golabki, but either way it translates to delicious!
There are perhaps as many ways to prepare stuffed cabbage as there are grandmothers who cook it. This is my version. I like mine to be slightly sweet and fragrant with spices. And for me, you must use Savoy cabbage which has a much more delicate flavor than regular cabbage.
Essentially stuffed cabbage is simply meatloaf stuffed inside a cabbage leaf, rolled up like a burrito and braised in tomato sauce. But the components of the meatloaf mixture are where the magic lies. Instead of breadcrumbs I use crushed gingersnap cookies which makes a very slightly sweet filling that is fragrant with cinnamon and ginger. YUM!
I also add dried currants to the tomato sauce. This may sound strange, but trust me on this, it is wonderful and truly transforms the dish. A dollop of sour cream finishes off the dish perfectly.
These can be made any time of the year and are paradoxically light and hearty at the same time making them perfect for both the winter and summer table.
Mama Ozzy's Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Holubky)
1 large head Savoy cabbage
1 large carrot, peeled and grated finely
1 large parsnip, peeled and grated finely
1 medium onion, diced finely
1 stalk celery finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1 tsp paprika
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork (use all beef if keeping kosher)
1 cup gingersnap cookies, finely crushed
1/2 cup uncooked rice
2 medium onions chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup dried currants (or raisins)
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1, 28 oz. can prepared tomato sauce
Preheat oven to 350F.
Bring a tea kettle full of water to a full boil. While water is heating, prepare cabbage by removing the tough damaged outer leaves and the tough stem by cutting a large cone-shaped well in the bottom of the cabbage.
Invert the cabbage, bottom side up in a very large bowl capable of submerging the entire cabbage. Pour the boiling water into the well in the bottom of the cabbage and cover the cabbage completely in boiling water. Set aside and allow the cabbage to blanch until cool enough to handle, about 30 minutes.
Let the cabbage blanche in the boiling water while
you do other things... like make pierogi!
Meanwhile prepare the meat filling and sauce.
For the filling: heat 3 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet. Add carrot, parsnip, onion, celery and garlic and cook over medium high heat until softened, taking care not to scorch the garlic.
Add salt, pepper, paprika and tomato paste to vegetables and stir to combine, remove from heat.
In a clean bowl, combine beef, pork, cooked vegetable mix, gingersnaps, rice and eggs and mix with your hands until well-mixed.
For the sauce: Saute the onions and currants in the olive oil until onion is translucent. Add brown sugar and cook until just beginning to caramelize, then de-glaze with vinegar. Add canned tomato sauce and cook until it just begins to bubble. Remove from heat.
Drain the cabbage thoroughly, then carefully separate the leaves and blot dry on paper toweling. With a paring knife make a "V-shaped" notch in the base of each leaf to remove the remaining tough stem.
Place about 1/4 cup filling on each leaf, fold the side over and roll up like a burrito or egg roll.
Spread about 2 cups of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a large heavy baking dish with a lid.
Top with a layer of unused cabbage leaves (if any). Place assembled cabbage rolls on top of the layer of leaves, seam side down.
Pour remaining sauce over cabbage rolls.
Cover tightly with lid or aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Serve hot with sour cream and potato pierogis.