In spite of the fact that I was fairly certain The Husband wasn’t going to be all that excited about eating stuffed cabbage for dinner, I was so hungry for this, I just went for it. As it turns out, I needn’t have worried. Not only did he like it, he took seconds (well, we both did), and declared it to be awesomely good. I mean, who uses awesome and stuffed cabbage in the same sentence? Besides me, I mean. I pretty much find cabbage to be awesome in just about any form.
But oh, this is a stuffed cabbage for the ages; one that keeps you thinking about it long after the meal is over and the dishes are cleaned and even into the next day until you get to warm the leftovers for another meal. Did I mention the leftovers? Lordy, this will make you enough stuffed cabbage to take to work for lunch and share with the neighbors and still get 2 or 3 more meals out of it.
We have Ina Garten to thank for this one. I watched her make it for Jeffrey while I was on the treadmill last week and had to jump off mid-run to put cabbage on my grocery list.
There are a couple of things that set this particular recipe apart from other stuffed cabbages I’ve made, and the first one is the genius way to get the cabbage leaves off the head without tearing them while softening them at the same time.
You guys probably already knew how to do this, but what an awesome way to de-leaf a cabbage! Just remove the core and submerge the entire cabbage into boiling water and one by one, the leaves will come loose and you can pull them out with tongs to dry on a kitchen towel.
The second and third things that set this one part (and for which I was initially skeptical) is that the sauce is a little on the sweet side AND then you add raisins. Raisins! How wrong is that?! I was pretty sure it was totally wrong, but decided to be brave and go on with it, and believe me, I will not be making this again without the raisins. For some reason, it just works. The husband concurred, so raisins it is! I did add an extra tablespoon of red wine vinegar to the sauce to sort of balance the sweetness and next time I might add another. The Husband said not to change a thing, so we’ll see.
As to the filling, Ms. Garten uses ground pork. I used a combination of ground turkey and some homemade turkey sausage I had on hand and it was so, so good. Well, it was all just good.
And while it may take a bit of time to stuff your cabbage leaves, it really all does come together quite easily. These are the kind of cooking projects that draw me in and keep me entertained and out of trouble for an afternoon, but probably not something you’re going to want to take on after a long day at work.
The actual stuffing is a breeze… just remove the stiff stem piece from your cabbage leaf and place some filling in the middle.
Wrap each side over the filling and then roll, tucking the sides in as you go.
Place your little cabbages in a heavy pot with some of the sauce and depending on the size of your pan, you’ll have two or three layers.
This all goes into the oven for an hour or so (depending if you use raw rice in your filling). I served it with smashed Yukon Gold potatoes (a little butter, milk, buttermilk, salt and pepper) on the side....so very scrumptious.
Stuffed cabbage is an old school-style comfort food that’s homey and rustic and feels a little like what your Grandma might have made in the dead of winter to warm you clear through, heart and soul. Definitely with mashed potatoes on the side. Here’s the recipe…
Ina's Stuffed Cabbage
Recipe adapted from Ina Garten
This is the stuffed cabbage recipe I’ve been looking for! So flavorful, and although a bit time-consuming, certainly not difficult. I made a couple of minor changes to the recipe which you can opt to do if you like. I used ground turkey for the filling and subbed in 1 lb of turkey sausage for part of the meat. The other change I made was to add another tablespoon or so of vinegar to the sauce to further balance the sweeness. Perhaps, like me, you will be tempted to leave out the raisins, but don’t. They're just so good! Also, if you're using raw rice in the filling, it may take a little longer than the hour that Ms. Garten suggests cooking these in her recipe. I cooked mine for 90 minutes and they came out perfectly. I can also imagine this would be great done in a slow cooker for even longer.
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 small onions)
2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes and their juice
1/4 cup red wine vinegar (I added a little more)
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup raisins
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large head Savoy or green cabbage, including outer leaves
For the filling:
2 1/2 pounds ground chuck (I subbed in 1 lb sausage)
3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten (I used large)
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onions
1/2 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
1/2 cup uncooked white rice
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves (you could use ½ tsp dried)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the onions, and cook over medium-low heat for 8 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, brown sugar, raisins, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Remove the entire core of the cabbage with a paring knife. Immerse the head of cabbage in the boiling water for a few minutes, peeling off each leaf with tongs as soon as it s flexible. Set the leaves aside. Depending on the size of each leaf, you will need at least 14 leaves.
For the filling, in a large bowl, combine the ground chuck, eggs, onion, breadcrumbs, rice, thyme, salt, and pepper. Add 1 cup of the sauce to the meat mixture and mix lightly with a fork.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
To assemble, place 1 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a large Dutch oven. Remove the hard triangular rib from the base of each cabbage leaf with a small paring knife. Place 1/3 to 1/2 cup of filling in an oval shape near the rib edge of each leaf and roll up toward the outer edge, tucking the sides in as you roll. Place half the cabbage rolls, seam sides down, over the sauce. Add more sauce and more cabbage rolls alternately until you ve placed all the cabbage rolls in the pot. Pour the remaining sauce over the cabbage rolls. Cover the dish tightly with the lid and bake for 1 hour or until the meat is cooked and the rice is tender (I baked mine for 90 minutes). Serve hot.