Classic Jewish comfort food like Bubbe used to make...and it's healthy, too!
Stuffed cabbage might seem like a ton of work and difficult to make, but it's pretty straightforward with a couple of special techniques, like soaking the head of cabbage in boiling water makes it easy as can be to remove the large outer cabbage leaves without damaging them, while leaving the inner leaves unharmed and still raw for later use of any kind. This recipe is all about technique, not torture!
Equipment: cutting board; chef’s knife; paring knife; stockpot or large Dutch oven; smaller lid; clean dish towel; dry and wet measuring cups; measuring spoons; box grater; large and wide pan with tall sides and tight-fitting lid or Dutch oven; wooden spoon; slotted spoon; small mixing bowl; spoon
1 large head green cabbage
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or schmaltz
2 large yellow onions, halved, sliced crosswise
1, 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
1 tablespoon kosher salt, divided ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground beef 3 tablespoons uncooked long-grain rice
¼ cup grated onion (1 small onion)
1 large egg, beaten
3 tablespoons cold water
3 tablespoons honey
¼ cup lemon juice (1-2 lemons)
¼ cup golden raisins kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Heat a large stockpot filled halfway with water over high heat. Once the water comes to a boil, gently lower the cabbage head in the water, stem-side up, and turn off the heat. Soak the cabbage in the water for 15 minutes, covering with a lid smaller than the diameter of the pot to keep the cabbage submerged, if necessary. Remove the cabbage carefully to a clean towel to drain until cool enough to handle.
2. Remove the core of the cabbage with the sharp point of a paring knife and discard. Carefully remove the leaves, one at a time until you have eight large, good leaves without any tears at the center. Set aside. Store the remaining cabbage for later use.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the beef, rice, grated onion, egg, and cold water with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and the freshly ground black pepper to taste. Divide the beef mixture into 8 equal portions.
4. Place a portion of the beef mixture in the center of each cabbage leaf. Fold over the sides and then roll them up carefully. Set aside.
ILOC tip: if you are nervous about the cabbage parcels keeping closed, you can fasten them with toothpicks, but this is not a necessary step.
5. Heat a large and deep pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the fat to the pan and swirl to coat, then add the sliced onions and stir. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and continue stirring until the onions are softened and barely browned, about 10 minutes.
6. Pour the can of tomatoes (tomatoes and juice) over the onions, passing through your hands, crushing the tomatoes with your fist before they fall into the pot.
"You could use a can of "crushed tomatoes" instead of a can of whole tomatoes that you crush with your hands, but the texture would be too uniform."
7. Sprinkle the tomatoes with the remaining teaspoon of salt and stir well to combine with the onions. Cook over low heat for approximately 10 minutes, until slightly thickened.
8. Add the cabbage parcels, seam side-down, tucking them into the sauce, without fully submerging them. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook over low heat for 1½ hours.
9. While the stuffed cabbage cooks, combine the honey, lemon juice, and raisins in a small bowl and set aside.
10. After 1½ hours, remove the lid and carefully remove the cabbage rolls with a slotted spoon to set aside. Stir in the honey-lemon-raisin mixture, then carefully return the cabbage rolls to the sauce. Cook over very low heat, covered, for another 20-30 minutes.
ILOC tip: do not worry if the parcels unfurl a bit at the seam as you lift them from the sauce before adding the honey-lemon-raisin mixture. Once you set them on a clean work surface, you can tuck back any loose flaps of cabbage leaf.
11. Taste the sauce before serving to see if it needs any adjustments (salt and/or pepper, more lemon juice, etc.). Serve 1-2 stuffed cabbages per person with a healthy spoonful of sauce.
Makes 8 parcels.