Ode to Cabbage, Part Dva

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It's here. It's finally here. That extra-crisp, freshly harvested cabbage has finally arrived in my CSA box (Route 1 Farms). Now I can get my cooking on. Yes, another Ode to Cabbage, also known as 'Another Ode to Grandma Julia - Queen of Cabbage'.

I made these delicious Cabbage Rolls for my family (dad, mom, sisters, husband, brother-in-law, children - the whole shebang) a few days ago, and listening to my dad speak about his memories of eating cabbage rolls with his family, I later realized that my German grandmother, Grandma Julia, was actually making the food and recipes from my Ukranian great-grandmother, Julia's mother-in-law. Strange. I had always thought these were Julia's recipes. Instead, I find they go back one more generation and a leap to the other side of the family tree. How brave of my Grandma to adopt another's regional cooking as her own. It reminds me of a famous Julia (Child) we all know and love. They both know a good thing when they taste it.

And, speaking of family and cooking, do you have someone you cook well with? Someone who compliments what you can and can't do? Fortunately, I do. This is a recipe that my husband (aka Mr. LocalHarvest) and I cook together. He prepares the cabbage, I prepare the filling. Its a perfect marriage of talents, and the proof is a perfect dish that comes together for a crowd without much fuss and without a sting to the pocketbook. It helps, of course, to start with a farm-fresh, locally grown cabbage. Its hard to go wrong when the star of the stage is as fresh and crisp as can possibly be, harvested the morning its prepared. Yet another reason to sign up with your local CSA, make a visit to your local farmer's market, or grow your own.

So, without further ado... presenting.... Cabbage Rolls!

Cabbage Rolls

Serves 6 - 8 people

  • 1 large head of cabbage
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 2 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 2 1/2 lbs. ground beef
  • 2 red onions, diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 (28oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 1/2 cups warm chicken broth
  • 6 slices bacon
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparing the cabbage:

1. Bring about 8 quarts of water to boil in a large stock pot.

2. Using a sharp paring knife, carefully remove the core from the bottom of the cabbage. The core, once removed, will ultimately be cone-shaped and about 2 1/2 inches in length.

3. Once the water has reached a boil, carefully use 2 large wooden spoons to place whole cored cabbage in boiling water. Let whole cabbage boil for 3 minutes. Have a large clean plate and a large clean bowl nearby.

4. Using the 2 wooden spoons, carefully remove the cabbage and place in large bowl. Let cabbage rest for one minute. With tongs or fingers, peel back and remove 2 leaves of cabbage and place leaves on the clean plate. Return whole cabbage to boiling water.

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until all leaves have been removed, leaving a small cabbage about the size of a fist. Discard small cabbage and set leaves aside for later use.

Preparing the rice:

1. In a medium sauce pot, heat 1 Tbsp canola oil over high heat. Add uncooked rice and stir until rice becomes translucent, about 1 minute.

2. Pour water into pot along with 1 tsp. salt. Stir well.

3. Once water has reached a boil, cover pot and lower temperature to low. Steam rice for 13 minutes (it needs to be slightly undercooked).

4. Remove pot from heat, fluff with fork, and put lid back on pot. Set aside for later use.

Preparing meat and aromatics:

1. Adjust oven racks to middle-high position and middle-low positions. Heat oven to 375 degrees.

2. In a large Dutch oven, heat 1 Tbsp canola oil over medium-high heat until oil is shimmering and hot. Add ground beef to oil and stir well. Break up large pieces with spoon. Continue cooking until meat is no longer pink, about 7 - 8 minutes, stirring often. Using a slotted spoon, remove browned meat from Dutch oven and set aside.

3. Reduce heat to medium and add last Tbsp of canola oil, if needed. Add onions, garlic, bay leaves, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and starting to soften, about 10 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, browned ground beef, cooked rice, and 1/2 cup warm broth. Stir well. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Stuffing the rolls:

Note: Remove the tough central 'stem' of the large leaves with a paring knife. Divide the largest leaves in half so rolls will be roughly the same size as the smaller leaves when stuffed.

1. Working with one roll at a time, spoon about 2 Tbsp prepared filling into center of each cabbage leaf (large leaves divided in half).

2. Fold over the bottom 1/3 leaf over the filling. Fold each side over bottom of leaf and filling. Roll the leaf from the bottom to the top, encasing the filling fully (they will look like a little package). Place into 13x9 inch Pyrex baking dish, and continue to fill baking dish in a single layer until dish is full, with rolls snug next to each other. If you have too many rolls to fit into the dish, use another one. Any leftover filling can be placed in the dish as well.

3. Once the dishes are filled, divide the remainder of the warm chicken broth between the two pans. Rolls should be at least half submerged in broth. Place bacon strips on top of dish, about 3 strips per pan.

4. Cover pan(s) tightly with foil and transfer to the preheated oven. After 40 minutes, remove foil and continue baking for another 20 minutes (about 1 hour total). Broth should be bubbling, bacon should be slightly browned, and tops of cabbages should be slightly brown.

5. Serve rolls immediately, spooning juices onto each plate.

I hope you enjoy your Cabbage Rolls! Please leave a comment if you have any questions or suggestions. I always appreciate them.

As always, eat well!


By: colleen Fussell | Aug 6, 2016 01:56 AM | Permalink
Mom & sibs sailed from Austria to Canada & settled in Sash. Canada in very early 1900's.Her cabbage rolls consisted of steaming cabbage leaves; filling: sm. pieces of salt pork(semi freeze S.P,=easier to cut) mixed into cooked rice, then stuffed into slightly steamed cabbage leaves & carefully placed in layers (on top of ea. other) into a stock pot, on top of a rack in bottom with tap water in bottom, She steamed all over low heat for ?? minutes - until cabbage leaves were cooked. Check to make sure pot still has an inch or so of water in bottom, so rolls will not burn! Play it by ear as to haw many rolls you want; as to how much rice and bits of salt pork you'll need. Probably use 3 to 4 Tbs. of chopped s .pork per cup of rice Her sibs always cooked rolls in tomato ju. or sauce. We loved the salt pork, but I am very anxious to try your recipe! thanks for sharing it.

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