Monday, November 1, 2010

Stuffed Cabbage

Low-rent picture snapped in a hurry, because my hungry family was devouring this like feral dogs.

Prep Time: 30-45 mins.
Cook Time: 45 mins.
Ingredients: 10

*CSA Items

Stuffed cabbage is easy, though not quick, to prepare, and super retro-fabulous, which I love. Blanching, then drying, then trimming the cabbage leaves will take the most time, but can be done while you're prepping the rest of the ingredients. I pulled from a couple of more traditional recipes to create this streamlined version, which was a huge hit with the family, even with former-cabbage-hater Hazel. I served it with an iceberg salad and garlic bread, because when I go retro, I go all the way.

1 lb. ground beef
1 sm. yellow onion*, diced
2 monster cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes + juice
1-2 cups tomato sauce
2 cups short grain brown rice (I used Whole Foods frozen), cooked
10-15 cabbage* leaves
1/2-1 cup Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, grated

*Note - this dish could easily be vegetarian, but substituting veggies (squash, eggplant, peppers) for meat, and upping the rice to 3 cups.

Put a large pot of water on to boil.  While water is getting hot, gently peel the leaves from your cabbage, casting off the outer few leaves, and wash throughly. Traditional recipes advise dunking the whole head of cabbage in a pot of boiling water, then peeling the leaves off after they've softened.  I, however, had a massive, 5lb. cabbage to work with, and wanted to save some to make a raw salad later in the week. Peeling the leaves of the cold cabbage was definitely doing it the hard way, I must say. Wash the leaves, but don't worry about drying them.

When you've got the leaf situation under control, dice your onion and chop your garlic. Sautee in olive oil, with the oregano, about 3 minutes. Add ground beef, and cook through. When beef is just about done, drain off the grease, then dump in the tomatoes and their juice. Warm through, transfer to a bowl, and stir in the cooked rice. Adjust the seasonings to your taste.

Your water should be hitting a rolling boil by now, and you'll want to salt it generously, then lower the heat to medium, and preheat your oven to 350. Dunk the cabbage leaves two at a time, for about 60 seconds, or until they brighten in color and start to go limp. Remove with tongs to a dry towel, then repeat with two more leaves, until you're done. As the leaves dry, start trimming the hard veins out. A pair of kitchen shears works nicely, and a knife is fine, too. Trimming the veins out will leave a V-shape at the bottoms of your leaves, which is just fine.

When you're done blanching and trimming all your leaves, you'll be ready to stuff 'em. Prepare your baking dish (I used a 9x11) by pouring about a cup of the tomato sauce in, and schmearing it around. Fill the top portion of cabbage leaf with 1/4 C - 1/2 C (depending on the size of your leaf) of the meat mixture. Fold the v-shaped corners of the leaf upward and inward, then try your best to fold in the sides and top, like a little package. This part can be a little tricky - a trial and error process. When you find what works for you, place your little package seam side down in your baking dish. When all your packages are lined up in your baking dish, coat them with the rest of the tomato sauce, and the cheese. Cover with foil, and bake about 25 minutes, then remove foil and bake another 10 minutes, to brown the cheese.

Hopefully you will have leftovers, because this is excellent with a fried egg on top for breakfast the next morning.

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