Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Stuffed Cabbage Rolls...

Top of the Morning (or Evening) to you...Happy St. Patrick's Day!  Well, today I decided it was a good day to make stuffed cabbage.  I've been wanting to make it for a while now.  There are so many variations of stuffed cabbage recipes out there....and almost every country in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere has their own style of how to make it.  The ones I made for dinner tonight are "my style"...which means a melange of styles "rolled into one"...hahaha (otherwise known as a mish-mosh of recipes that looked good to me)!  At least I managed to get "green" into our dinner so hubby and I didn't have to sit there and keep pinching each other while we ate!!!

I started with a gorgeous head of cabbage -- there were so many more to choose from at the grocery store today since it is St. Patrick's Day.  I wanted to use Savoy cabbage (it is the darker green cabbage with all the little light veins running through the leaves) because I think it is prettier, but the Publix I stopped at only had mountains of traditional green that is what I got.  I am not sure why it took me so long to prepare them and get my rolls into the pot to cook, but I believe it took me about an hour, maybe a little more.  It is simmering away now for the next hour or two.  I debated whether to cook them in a dutch oven in my oven and I had actually pulled out my beautiful green oval Le Creuset dutch oven to use that my daughter gave me several years ago when she was working summers at Williams Sonoma.  But, as I made my cabbage rolls, it became clear very quickly that it wasn't going to be large enough to hold all of them...which was a bummer.  So, I placed them in 2 layers in a large stockpot on the stove.  Hint: It is helpful to use a larger head of cabbage so the leaves are large and easier to roll.

This is what I had hoped to put my cabbage rolls in!
The "star" of the show
Sauteed onions and garlic
Here are the dried spices in this recipe
Dill, paprika & allspice that get added to the onions and garlic
Spices have been added to the cooked onions and garlic
Cooked cabbage leaves, waiting to be stuffed and rolled
Ground meat, rice and other ingredients for the meat filling
Meat mixture is mixed and divided to fill the cabbage leaves
Meat filling placed in the center of the cabbage leaf
Rolled into a perfect cabbage roll
Cabbage rolls layered into the pot
Tomato sauce and additional broth to almost cover the rolls
Covered with a large cabbage leaf before cooking
Come, take a closer look...

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Ingredients (Cabbage Rolls):
15 medium-large cabbage leaves (more or less depending on how large you like them)
1-1/4 pounds lean ground beef (I used ground sirloin)
1-1/2 cups "par-cooked" long grain rice (cooked about 15 minutes, not fully done)
1/4 cup sour cream (or plain yogurt), optional
1 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground, or to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sweet paprika (I used Hungarian sweet paprika)
1/2 teaspoon dill weed
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (I used Jamaican allspice)
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)

Ingredients (Tomato Sauce):
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
Juice from 1/2 lemon, freshly squeezed (approximate 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon brown sugar, optional
2 bay leaves (I used Turkish bay leaves)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground (or to taste)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Remove the core of the cabbage and immerse it in the pot of boiling water.  After 5-10 minutes or so, the leaves will begin to soften and separate from the head; remove the loosened cooked, tender leaves with tongs to a platter and place in a colander in the sink to drain (make sure they are soft and pliable or you won't be able to fold and roll them). When you've cooked and removed enough leaves for your cabbage rolls, set them aside and reserve the remaining cabbage to be chopped and used in the cooking pot.

In a medium skillet, saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until translucent; add dried spices (paprika, dill weed, allspice, optional pinch of red pepper), stirring over low heat 1-2 minutes until fragrant.  Remove from heat; stir in the fresh parsley and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine ground beef, rice, sour cream, cooked onion mixture, salt and pepper.  Mix together thoroughly and divide with a knife while in the bowl into the number of cabbage leaves you plan to make (approximately 15).  Rough chop the remaining head of cooked cabbage to line the bottom of your cooking pot with, making a bed to sit your cabbage rolls on while they cook,  Once you've put a layer of the leftover chopped, cooked cabbage in the bottom of your pan, begin making your cabbage rolls.  Lay a cabbage leaf on a cutting board or work surface and place a portion of the ground beef filling in the center of your cabbage leaf (either remove the tough vein by cutting a small "v" and discarding the thick white core/vein, or slice a thin layer off of the tough portion so it is flexible enough to roll up).  With the ground meat filling in the center of your trimmed cabbage leaf, begin rolling the cabbage leaf over the beef mixture, tucking and folding in both sides while continuing to roll forward until snugly closed.  Place seam side down in your pot on top of the bed of chopped cabbage.  Repeat rolling and placing your cabbage rolls in your pot.  As you fill up the first layer, scatter more of the leftover chopped cooked cabbage around the rolls and continue layering the cabbage rolls until all have been filled and rolled.  If you have any leftover cabbage leaves or cooked cabbage, scatter and tuck it around your cabbage rolls.

In a saucepan, add the crushed tomatoes, chicken broth, lemon juice, brown sugar, bay leaves, salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil and taste to adjust seasoning.  Carefully pour the heated tomato sauce over the cabbage rolls.  Depending on the pot you use, you may need to add additional chicken broth or water to your pot to almost cover the rolls with liquid while they cook (I had to add about 3 more cups of broth to mine).  Bring to a light boil; turn heat to low, cover and simmer approximately 1-1/2 to 2 hours.  Cook gently so you don't rupture your cabbage rolls during the cooking process.  Carefully remove them to your serving platter or dish.  Enjoy!

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