Saturday, December 14, 2013

December Daring Cooks' Challenge - Cabbage Rolls

December’s Daring Cooks’ Challenge had us on a roll! Olga from challenged us to make stuffed cabbage rolls using her Ukrainian heritage to inspire us. Filled with meat, fish or vegetables, flexibility and creativity were the name of the game to get us rolling!

Would you believe that I'd never made cabbage rolls before?

Actually, I'd never even eaten one before. For some reason, I thought I wouldn't like them.

Enter this month's challenge and let me tell you, I was totally wrong!

Our hostess provided us with several recipes, but I decided to go for the classic meat version.  They were pretty easy to make, but it did require a little bit of time and planning.

I started out preparing the filling. While I set some rice to par-cook in a pot, I sauteed some onions and carrots in a pan.

Once the veggies cooles, I added them to a combination of ground beef and ground pork, along with some more chopped onion.

Then I added in the half-cooked (and cooled!) rice...

...and mixed it all together.

I covered the filling mix with plastic wrap, set it in the fridge, washed all of the dishes, then picked little miss up from school.

And then came the interesting part - putting them together!

Olga provided us with an interesting way of breaking down the cabbage for its leaves. Rather than separating the leaves and then blanching them (to soften them for easier rolling), she had us blanch the whole cabbage first.

Then, once the whole things was a bit softened up, the leaves are easier to pull off!

Then it's just a matter of putting a good scoop of filling at the bottom of each leaf...

...and rolling them up!

Once my tray was all filled up...

I was ready for the final element - a quick tomato sauce.

And after a little more than an hour covered in the oven, I was delighted by the sight and smell of these little beauties.

I have never been happier to have been wrong in my entire life. These were so delicious, I have no idea what I must have been thinking to never have tried these before.

And the whole family enjoyed them, too.

These are perfect comfort food, and I know I'll be making them many more times in the future.

Olga, thank you so much for this challenge and for being such a wonderful hostess.

To see the full challenge as it was presented this month, check it out here.

And to see the deliciousness cooked up in the kitchen this month, check them out here.

Cabbage Rolls
(only very slightly adapted the December Daring Cooks' Challenge)

1 green cabbage
4 cups of ground pork (I used one pound)
4 cups of ground beef (I used a pound and a half)
1 cups dry rice
2 yellow onions, medium size
2 carrots, medium size
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
5 garlic cloves
4 cups tomato puree
1½ teaspoons salt (or to taste)
3 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
2 teaspoons black pepper
3 bay leaves (I omitted)

Pre-cook rice:
In a large pot, bring about 2 1/4 cups of water to a boil.
Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 minutes.
Drain the rice using a colander and set aside.

Making Stuffing:
Finely chop one onion. Using a coarse grater, grate the carrots. With 3 tablespoons of olive oil, in a skillet, cook the chopped onion and grated carrots for about 5 minutes, just until soft. Allow to cool.
Chop the other onion.
In a large bowl, combine the ground meat, the cooked onion and carrots, the raw onion and the cooled par-cooked rice. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper and combine everything (by hand) until you have a uniform mixture.

Pre-cook cabbage and prepare cabbage leaves:
Using a large chef’s knife, remove core of the cabbage. Please be careful doing this. You don't have to cut out too much.
To determine how much water exactly you will need to cook the whole cabbage, place your cabbage in a large pot and pour in enough cold water to cover the whole cabbage entirely. Remove cabbage from the water now place the pot with the water in it on the stove top.
Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Stick grill fork firmly into the cored center part of the cabbage and carefully place your cabbage into the boiling water, cored-side up. Be cautious not to splash the hot water!
Let the cabbage cook for about 5 minutes. During the entire process of cooking the cabbage and separating leaves keep heat on its lowest setting so as to have the water barely boiling or near the boiling point.
To separate the leaves, you can keep the cabbage in the pot at all times and use a long-handled grilling fork, sticking it into the core of the cabbage and using a regular fork or tongs to separate and remove the leaves, one by one, then transferring them onto a large plate. To separate the leaves right in the pot, pick a leaf at its thickest end and lift cabbage with your grill fork just a little bit, so as to release the bottom part of the leaf. While the whole process seems intimidating, it’s actually easy and even fun to do. Just be careful and keep the water barely simmering (or just below boiling point). After the first couple of leaves, you'll find your rhythm and it works really nicely.
When leaves are cool enough to handle, cut off the tough ribs on each leaf. Now, the leaves are ready for filling.

Rolling Cabbage Leaves:
Place about one heaping tablespoon of stuffing on a cabbage leave, closer to the tough edge. Roll leaf, envelop-style, tucking sides inside. (I folded the  bottom up, then folded each of the sides in, then rolled it up. It really does follow the shape of the leaf, and goes quite quickly.)
Place rolls, seam side down, into a oven proof dish.
Continue stuffing until you run out of leaves or stuffing. I had about twice as much stuffing as I needed for the number of leaves I had, so I rolled the extra stuffing into regular meatballs and cooked them (in a separate baking dish) the same way as the wrapped ones.

Making sauce and finishing cooking cabbage rolls:
Finely mince garlic. Take a large pan and, using the remaining olive oil, cook garlic for one minute, stirring.
Add tomato puree. Cook, stirring for another minute and then add enough water to have about 8 cups of sauce. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes.
Season sauce with a 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper, bay leaves (if using) and about 3 tablespoons of sugar (adjust sugar depending on acidity of your tomato puree). Taste and adjust seasoning. Sauce shouldn’t be bland – remember that the cabbage leaves are not salted.
Pour sauce on top of the cabbage rolls. It should almost completely cover the rolls. If there is not enough sauce, add water right into the pot with the cabbage rolls.

Tightly cover baking dish with foil and cook in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 1½ hours.


1 comment:

  1. For the person, who never made stuffed cabbage rolls before, you rolls looks pretty darn professional :)


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