Monday, March 16, 2009

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

One more idea for your Irish feasts. This time it's cabbage, meat and potatoes, with an Eastern European inflection. Of course, the cabbage made me think of this dish for St. Patty's Day, but it's actually my take on a family recipe from my Polish grandmother.

A few years ago, I did a little research and found out one of the proper names for it is golumpki, but there are so many variations. I don't know how to spell my grandma's particular variation, so I'll stick with golumpki. Despite the clumsy name, the flavors of this satisfying dish are straightforward and assertive flavors.

My grandmother's tomato sauce had a tangy flavor in my memory, and I recreated it by seasoning canned sauce with white wine vinegar and sugar. Some crushed garlic cloves add another layer of flavor. In the ground meat filling, you'll almost always find white rice. I used my favorite long grain brown rice and it worked wonderfully. It's not totally traditional, but it adds more flavor and nutrients, so it's hardly egregious.

Along with the rice, goes allspice, paprika, chile powder, parsley and half a finely minced onion. My grandmother's special touch was to grate the onion on a box grater to make it extra juicy and fine. Last night, Mike was prepping the meat, and he preferred the chopping method. For a uniform, finely chopped onion, he's your man.

As we put this dish together last night, it reminded me of lasagna, in that it's not complicated, but takes a little time and a few steps before you can put everything together. You do have to blanche the cabbage by sticking the whole head in a big pot of boiling water for a few minutes. It softens up the leaves for easier rolling. Cook your rice in advance too, especially if you're using brown. Or steam some for your dinner today and make extra for stuffed cabbage tomorrow.

My grandmother always served this with simple, creamy mashed potatoes. That's not my personal favorite (I'll take mashed sweet potatoes; or the chunky, garlicky mashed red potatoes with skins.), so I did these easy broiled, sliced potatoes instead. I can't believe I didn't figure out this method years ago. You get a wonderfully browned, chewy texture that's kind of like a healthier version of pan-fried potatoes.

Happy St. Patty's Day!

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Golumpki)
Serves 4

Tangy Tomato Sauce:
1 (29 oz.) can tomato sauce
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the flat side of knife
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs. white wine vinegar
1 Tbs. sugar

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls:
1 large head of cabbage
1 lb. ground beef
1 cup cooked brown or white
½ cup finely chopped onion
2 Tbs. chopped parsley, plus additional for garnish
½ tsp. paprika
½ tsp. chile powder
½ tsp. allspice
½ tsp. coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

To make the sauce, bring the tomato sauce and garlic cloves to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Season with black pepper and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Add the vinegar and sugar and continue simmering for five minutes more. Remove from heat.

To make the cabbage rolls, trim as much of the tough stem from the cabbage as you can without separating the leaves. Add the entire cabbage to a large pot of boiling water and cook for 3 minutes, or until the leaves start to separate. Drain and run large outer leaves under cold water to stop the cooking. Pick 8 large, intact leaves and pat dry. Save the rest of the cabbage for another use or discard. I like to tuck some of the extra leaves into the baking dish to serve with the golumpki.

Add remaining ingredients to a large bowl. Gently combine with your hands or a spoon.

Pour about 1 cup of the sauce into a large casserole dish and spread to coat evenly. To assemble the cabbage rolls, place one cabbage leaf on a cutting board with the stem end facing you. Trim up to 1-inch of the stem end if very thick. Place half a cup of beef filling in the center of the leaf, fold in the sides and roll into a tight bundle starting with the stem end. Place the bundle into the casserole dish and continue with the remaining leaves and filling.

Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the rolls and bake for 45 minutes. They are done if the sauce is bubbling and the cabbage rolls are firm to the touch. Rest 5 to 10 minutes, sprinkle with additional parsley and serve with potatoes.

Easy Broiled Potatoes
Serves 4

2 to 3 white potatoes, cut into ¼-inch rounds
Olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Red wine vinegar, for serving (optional)

Preheat broiler to high. You can switch your oven to broil during the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking time for the cabbage rolls. They will finish baking in the oven’s residual heat.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray. Arrange potatoes in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil or use a pastry brush to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Broil 8 to 10 inches from heat until potatoes are golden brown and tender, 5 to 6 minutes per side. Sprinkle with parsley and pass red wine vinegar at the table if desired.


Mark Scarbrough said...

Now you're talking! A casserole of stuffed cabbage is the coming-home present from either Bruce or me when the other one has been away. Love the spice mixture of chile powder and allspice. Can't wait to try it.

Julie said...

Mark: Aw, that's a nice homecoming! I love adding allspice to beef dishes--gives it that little kick of something different. When I have the time, I do fresh ground and the flavor is sooo great.

Daniel said...

Hi Julie,
I really like the "mingling" of different cultures in your recipe today. Nice how people from very different countries can still have the same kinds of comfort foods.

Casual Kitchen

Zoe said...

Hi there, This looks like a fab. recipe.
I was wondering though whether the tomato sauce is as in ketchup or just tomato sieved (no seasonings).
Hope someone can help. From Greece, not really sure?!

Julie said...

Zoe: not sure what's available in Greece, but the product is labelled, "tomato sauce." it's simply pureed and sieved tomatoes with nothing added other than perhaps a necessary preservative, water, etc.

Anonymous said...

Hi Julie,

it is so wonderful you use old inherited recipes!

The real name is even clumsier: 'gołąbki' [gowoubkee] and it means 'litlle pigeons'. You can also cook them in porcini sauce (porcini are very popular in Poland) - this is winter, delicious version of that dish. Another one is to use rosted buckwheat instead of rice (it is really healthy and it has strong, inspiring flavour - you love it or hate it; it can be bought in Polish deli I think).

Instead of cooking the whole cabbage you can use microwave - it is much more convenient.

Julie said...

Anonymous: Thanks for your comment! I like that buckwheat suggestion. I use brown rice for the health benefits as it is.

Anonymous said...

Hi I just finished making the stuffed cabbage rolls!!!! Loved Loved Loved them. Delicious and house smells good. thanks for a great recipe, looked at others but liked your combo of spices. YUMMMMY

Julie said...

Hi Fran--Thanks for letting me know how they turned out! I do try to spice it up, as other recipes for this dish are often rather bland. It's such a satisfying meal that your grandmother would have made (mine did!), but it's quite easy too.