Good ole cabbage. It does get a bit of a rough ride. As soon as anyone mentions the word, many of us will think of one thing: the smell. Cooked cabbage has an…um….”unique” smell that can warm your house but also make you run for the air freshener.
When I think of stuffed cabbage, I immediately think of cold winters in PIttsburgh, the warm smell of the mixture filling the house and….how heavy they were! After two of these “hand grenades” you were ready to pop open the button on your pants.
So recently when I came across some beautiful cabbage, I thought I would try my own version: one that was fresh and light with a cooking method that won’t make you break out the air freshener before the guests arrive.
Let’s go shopping. This recipe tends to make a lot, so this will feed about 8-10 people with 2 wraps each. The best part? It is VERY inexpensive!
1 1/2 Pound of Ground Beef (if you want to be lighter choose ground chicken or turkey)
1 Medium Sized Cabbage
1 Cup White Wine Vinegar
1 Medium White Onion
3 Medium Cloves of Garlic
6 Green Onions
6 Teaspoons of Sugar
1 1lb Can of Diced Tomatoes
1 Quart of V8 Tomato Cocktail (or Bloody Mary Mix)
Coarse Sea Salt (to taste)
Freshly Ground Black Pepper (to taste)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (to sautee)
Ok..let’s get cooking.
The first thing is that you need to do this the night BEFORE you have people over for dinner. Even if you are going to do this for the family, it can be a lot of cooking after work (I think it is more of a weekend meal anyhow).
Get a large pot (in which you can fully submerge the full head of cabbage) and fill it with water to boil. Toss a little bit of salt and pepper to the water and cover until it boils. While waiting, take off any outside leaves that look dodgy and cut off the bottom. Once the water is boiling, pop in the head of cabbage (topside facing up) and cover the pot. I would generally suggest that you let this boil for 20-30 minutes or until all of the leaves begin to fall away from the cabbage. The longer you boil the head of cabbage, the more tender the outside will become. So some suggest that you do two boilings (one for the outer layers and one for the inner layers)…so up to you. Once it is cooked, take it out to drain and cool in the sink and move onto the beef.
Next cut the onion in half and half again, and throw into your food processor with the garlic and 4 green onion stalks. Pulse this until it is finely minced. No food processor? Mince all finely by hand.
Once minced, add some olive oil to high heat in a large frying pan. Once hot, add the minced onions and garlic mixture. Stir around and then add a 1/2 cup of vinegar, 3 teaspoons of sugar and salt/pepper to taste. Reduce this (get ready for some spicy eyes) until the liquid is nearly nonexistent and the onions are translucent. Now you are ready for the meat.
Toss in the meat and mix together until fully cooked and completely mixed through. Add half of the diced tomato pieces (drained) and toss over heat for a few minutes, crushing them as you toss.
By now your cabbage leaves should be cool. Grab a large rectangular Pyrex dish and grease it lightly (with cooking spray or olive oil). The grab your cabbage and lightly peel layer by layer of leaves away. Be careful! Some of these are very fragile, so you need to take close care.
One peeled, take each leaf and put 3-4 teaspoons of the meat mixture on it (more or less depending on the size of the leaf). Place this at the base of the leaf, tuck over, pull the sides in, and roll down to the end. When finished, pinch and push all sides together with a little pressure to ensure a good shape (some liquid may leak out, so be ready). Place in pan seam up and go onto your next one. Keep going until you have completely used the entire meat and onion mixture.
Now the sauce! Dump the V8, remaining sugar, vinegar and tomatoes into your food processor and liquidate. Once done, taste and see what you think it needs. Usually it needs salt, pepper and maybe even a bit of hot sauce for a kick.
When you have this done, dump the mixture over the stuffed cabbages so that they are fully coated, but not swimming in the mixture. Take the remaining liquid and put in a refrigerator container for tomorrow. Cover the stuffed cabbage with tin foil and pop in the fridge over night.
When you are ready to heat, pre-heat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. When oven is ready, pop in the dish of stuffed cabbages and cook for 40 minutes or until tender. While cooking, roughly chop the tomatoes and remaining green onion, mix in a dish and set in the refrigerator. Get the remaining sauce and heat up on the stove.
When done, take out of the oven. I like to serve these family style, so sprinkle the tomatoes and green onion mixture over the top with a few twists of black pepper and serve hot with the extra sauce on the side. Enjoy!