Stuffed Cabbage Rolls are the epitome of comfort food. Pork, beef and veal are mixed with rice or barley, wrapped in lightly blanched cabbage leaves then cooked in a rich tomato sauce until tender. Most Eastern European cuisines have their own version of a cabbage roll. For Czechs and Slovaks, it's holubky, while Serbs and Croatians refer to them as sarma. The Polish call them gołąbki, pronounced "gaw-womp-kee", which literally means 'little pigeons.' Although no pigeon is used in the recipe, the name could possibly be due to it's resemblance to the shape of pigeon breast. Legend has it that a Polish King fed his army with golabki before a key battle in 1465 and their victory was credited to this hearty meal beforehand which was said to have 'given the soldiers wings.' A labour of love, these little parcels are delicious in any language, and can be easily frozen for a soul satisfying feast on a chilly autumn day.
Blanching the savoy cabbage leaves in salted boiling water
Onions, garlic, thyme, paprika and cayenne pepper are sautéed over medium-high until the onions are golden, about 10-15 minutes
Long grain rice is then added to the mixture — I used a combination of long grain and wild rice
The rice is cooked for one minute with the onions
Beef broth is added to the saucepan, covered and allowed to simmer for 30 minutes
After 1/2 an hour, the rice has absorbed all the liquid
Ground veal, pork, beef are combined in a big bowl with an egg and fresh parsley, dill and tarragon
The meat mixture is combined well...
...then added to the rice and onions and mixed well
A spoonful of the stuffing is laid on top of each blanched cabbage leaf and rolled up into little parcels
A spoonful of tomato sauce is ladled in the casserole to prevent the cabbage rolls from sticking
Then each of the cabbage rolls are nestled together
More tomato sauce is generously spooned on top to completely cover the cabbage rolls
Baked at 350°F for an hour, the cabbage rolls are cooked through and wonderfully aromatic
1 head of savoy cabbage, cored
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp caraway seeds, crushed
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 tbsp packed brown sugar
2 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
2 tbsp butter
3 onions, chopped into fine 1/8-inch dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
1/2 cup long-grain rice
1 1/4 cups beef stock
1 1/2 lb each lean ground pork, beef and veal
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp pepper
sprigs of fresh thyme
fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, if desired
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Gently remove each leaf from the savoy cabbage and place in the boiling water until tender, about 3-4 minutes per leaf, then drain on a tea towel. Cut out and discard any coarse veins then set the leaves aside.
In large saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions, caraway seeds, salt and pepper and sauté for about 10 minutes, or until the onions are golden. Add the sugar and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bring to boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered until reduced, about 30 minutes.
For the filling, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, thyme, paprika and cayenne pepper, and cook stirring often until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the rice, and cook, stirring for 1 minute, then add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed. Transfer to large bowl and let cool for 5 minutes. Stir in the ground meats, parsley, dill, egg, salt and pepper, mixing well to combine.
Spread 1 cup of the tomato mixture in a large oven proof casserole. To make the cabbage rolls, spoon 1/4 cup of the filling onto the centre of each cabbage leaf, fold sides over filling, and then roll up. Transfer the rolls, seam side down to the bottom of a 9"x13" casserole or glass baking dish. Pour the tomato sauce over the rolls and bake at 350°F until the filling is tender and cooked through, about 45-60 minutes.
NOTE: The Cabbage Rolls can be made ahead:
Refrigerate: Bake rolls and let cool. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Reheat, covered, in 350°F oven for about 1 hour.
Freeze: Bake rolls and let cool. Cover with plastic wrap and overwrap with foil; freeze for up to 2 weeks. Thaw in refrigerator for 48 hours. Reheat, covered, in 350°F oven for 1 hour.