It's that time of year again, when a multitude of cabbage begins to arrive in our produce box and clutter up the fridge. This year, I will do my best to make sure we eat each and every one of the little darlings. Perfectly delicious when sautéed gently with butter, some of the more traditional recipes for cabbage, however, can be downright frightening.
Like cabbage rolls, for example. Is there anything more scary than serving them to your kids the day after Halloween? I like to think of cabbage rolls, or cabbage in any form, as a little something to balance out all that candy: a treat of an entirely different kind or a wicked trick, depending on how you look at it.
It's true, my kids squealed in terror, but the combination of cabbage and pork can be pretty tasty when done right. My husband and I both remember stuffed cabbage fondly, we used to eat it several times each winter, until our favorite recipe went missing sometime in the recent past. Sausage? Breadcrumbs? Tie it up with string? I can't remember much else.
This recipe isn't quite as delicious, but it uses up a cabbage and is good and filling, just the same.
Gołąbki or Cabbage Rolls (adapted from Rose Petal Jam, p.284):
This recipe takes about 20 minutes of prep plus 1 hour 15 minutes of cooking time.
It feeds 4.
1 white (or green) cabbage
1 large onion, minced
2 cups cooked rice
1/2 cup cooked lentils (throw these in if you happen to have them around as leftovers)
1 pound ground pork or sausage
2 cups tomato sauce
1/4 cup cream
4 large potatoes
Start by putting on a pot of salted water to boil, deep enough to submerge the cabbage. When the water is ready, simmer the cabbage for 15 minutes.
While the cabbage simmers, gently sauté the onions in a Tablespoon of butter. When they are translucent, take them off the stove and mix in the rice, lentils and raw pork. Add salt and pepper, maybe 1/2 teaspoon of each.
When the cabbage is done, remove it from the pot and drain it in a colander in the sink for a few minutes. Put the potatoes into the pot of simmering water, turn up the heat a bit and boil them until soft. When they are easy to stab with a fork, drain the potatoes, mash them with the fork, add butter, salt and pepper until they taste good.
While the potatoes are cooking, carefully peel each leaf off of the cabbage, keeping the leaves whole. Cut out the very thick white veins at the lower edge of larger leaves. Reserve about 6 leaves, then one by one, lay the rest of the leaves flat, place about 2 Tablespoons of the onion/rice/pork mixture into the center, fold over the two sides and roll up each leaf to make a little package.
Add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and about 1/2 an inch of water to the bottom of a large saucepan. Line the pan with a few cabbage leaves, place the cabbage rolls on top, add about 1/2 cup of water, 1 Tablespoon of butter and then cover with rest of the cabbage leaves on top. Cover the pot with a lid, bring it to a boil and simmer gently for an hour or so. To test for doneness, cut open one cabbage roll when the time is up, the meat should be cooked.
While the rolls cook, warm the tomato sauce and mix in a little cream.
Serve a scoop of mashed potatoes on each plate with two rolls and tomato sauce on top. An arugula salad goes very well alongside this for dinner.