Stuffed Cabbage

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Comfort food. To some, it’s a large bowl of belly warming soup. To others, it’s a gorgeous piece of slow cooked meat falling off the bone. To my husband’s family, it is a large platter of steaming stuffed cabbage rolls cooked in a tomato sauce with braised short ribs.

My mother-in-law, Velda, makes the most delicious cabbage rolls! It’s a recipe she learned from her mother-in-law, who immigrated from Bethlehem as an adult. It’s exactly the kind of comfort food that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside, yet the addition of cabbage makes you feel like you actually made a healthy choice in the way of comfort food. It’s a recipe meant to serve a crowd, so if you are feeding a smaller group, feel free to play around with the proportions.

I’ve presented this recipe exactly as Velda prepares it, however, if you prefer to use a homemade tomato sauce or jarred sauce of your preference, that is perfectly fine. Also take note of the prep and cook time. This is certainly not a 30-minute meal. If you are tight on time it can be prepped ahead of time, refrigerated, and then taken out and brought to room temperature approximately 1 hour before cooking

Start with 3 large heads of  prepped cabbage. Stick the base of cabbage with a large meat fork so you can put it in the boiling water without burning yourself!

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Insert cabbage into boiling water to mostly cover the cabbage, and rotate in circles to ensure all tops veins of the cabbage are softened. Once each layer of cabbage begins to soften (about 1-2 minutes), cut it at the top vein and set aside. Repeat process until no leaves remain.

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As the cabbage is softening, soak the rice in hot water for approximately 15-20 minutes. Toss the steak with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and granulated garlic. When rice is finished soaking, drain it thoroughly and add it to the diced meat.

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Now it’s time to trim and separate your  cabbage leaves. Starting at  the middle of the cabbage leaf, trim the excess from the thick vein that runs down the back of the cabbage leaf. The key is to get the leaf about the same thickness the entire way through, so that it is easy to roll. Once the leaves have the thick vein removed, fold them in half lengthwise, and cut in half widthwise. For the small, inside leaves, they may just need the thick bottom cut off, rather than in half. As the leaves are being trimmed, separate them into a “white” and “green” pile. The greener leaves will be tougher, and will need to be placed towards the bottom of your cooking pot.

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Begin rolling your leaves by laying each cut leaf vein side down on a flat surface. Add a small amount of meat and rice mixture to the edge of the leaf closest to you and roll into a tight log. For the record, I prefer to roll my cabbage on a flat surface. I find that I get a tighter, neater roll that way…

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Salt and pepper your short ribs and lay then bone side down at the bottom of a large cooking pot, bone side down. Begin stacking your cabbage rolls on top of the short ribs, making sure that all empty spaces are filled. This recipe should fill 2 cooking pots. Should you find that you have leftover meat and rice mixture from rolling cabbage, you can fill the optional tomatoes with the mixture and add them to the pot. After each layer of cabbage leaves is laid into the pot, throw a halved garlic clove onto the mix for additional flavor.

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Before cooking, mix half of the tomato sauce  with approximately 2½ cups of water and salt to taste. Pour liquid onto cabbage rolls, turning and tilting the pot to ensure the liquid is dispersed throughout the pot and in between each roll. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer, covered, for 2½ -3 hours.

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When the rolls are finished cooking, place a large aluminum serving platter over the top of the pot and turn over so that the rolls are transferred easily to the serving platter without ripping. And there you have it! Quite a bit of prep work, but after all the prep is said and done, you can sit back and relax! The effort is well worth it!

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Stuffed Cabbage
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Serves: 10
Ingredients
  • 3 large heads cabbage
  • 2 cups uncooked rice
  • 3 Delmonico steaks, diced
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp granulated garlic
  • 5 lbs. short ribs
  • 6 cloves garlic, halved
  • 4-5 vine tomatoes, hollowed (optional)
  • 1 jar tomato sauce (suggested: Classico spicy red pepper)
  • 2 cups water
Instructions
  1. Spear a large head of prepped cabbage with a large grill fork and insert into boiling water, turning the fork so that the top veins of the cabbage are submerged in the boiling water and begin to soften.
  2. Once softened, about 1-2 minutes, cut the top vein of the cabbage with a sharp knife and remove each leaf of cabbage one by one. Set aside.
  3. Soak the rice in hot water for approximately 20 minutes, then drain well and mix into the diced meat. Season rice/meat mixture with olive oil, salt, pepper, and granulated garlic.
  4. Trim the thick veins on the back of the cabbage leaf with a small pairing knife and separate into "white and green" piles.
  5. Add a small amount of rice/meat mixture onto the cabbage leaf and roll into a tight log. Set aside and continue until no cabbage leaves remain. Continue to sort rolled cabbage leaves into "white and green" piles. Set any additional meat and rice mixture aside.
  6. Season short ribs with salt and pepper and place into the bottom of 2 heavy bottomed large stock pots.
  7. Scatter the cabbage leaf rolls on top of the short ribs, ensuring that all empty spaces are filled. Begin by stacking the darkest green leaves on the bottom and finishing with the light leaves on top. As each layer of cabbage is finished, throw in a piece of sliced garlic for extra flavor.
  8. If using vine tomatoes (optional) hollow and fill tomatoes with leftover rice and meat. Scatter among cabbage.
  9. Mix half of the tomato sauce with approximately 2 cups of water and salt to taste. Divide liquid evenly between both pots turning and tilting to ensure all liquid is dispersed throughout the pot and in between each roll. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 2½ -3 hours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prep time: 2 hours

Cook time: 2-1/2 hours

Serves: 10

 

Here’s your line up:

 

3 large heads cabbage

2 cups rice

3 Delmonico steaks, cut into small cubes

¼ cup olive oil

1 tsp salt

½ tsp ground black pepper

½ tsp granulated garlic

5 lbs short ribs

6 cloves of garlic, halved

4-5 vine tomatoes (optional), hollowed

1 jar Classico spicy red pepper sauce, or any other flavored tomato sauce

2½ cups water

 

Bring a large pot of boiling water to a boil, approximately 8 cups. You should have enough water to cover the majority of the cabbage. Prep the cabbage by ripping off any wilted outer leaves. Spear the cabbage base with a large meat fork, and insert into the boiling water, turning in circles to ensure that all the top veins begin to soften from the hot water. As each layer of cabbage begins to soften (about 1-2 minutes) begin to cut the connective veins and peel the leaves from the cabbage head. Set the cut leaves aside, and repeat until no leaves remain.

 

As the cabbage is softening, soak the rice in hot water for approximately 15-20 minutes. Toss the cubes of steak with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and granulated garlic. Once the rice is finished soaking, rinse with cold water, and add it to the marinated meat. Additionally, salt and pepper your short ribs and add them to the bottom of a large, 5-quart cooking out, bone side down.

 

Once the cabbage heads are finished softening and being cut from the head, it’s time to trim and separate them. Grab 2 knives, a smaller pairing knife and a larger slicing knife. Start at approximately the middle of the cabbage leaf and trim the excess from the thick vein that runs down the back of the cabbage leaf. The key is to get the leaf about the same thickness the entire way through, so that it is easy to roll. Once the leaves have the thick vein removed, fold them in half lengthwise, and cut in half widthwise. For the small, inside leaves, they may just need the thick bottom cut off. They won’t need to be cut in half. As the leaves are being trimmed, separate them into a “white” and “green” pile. The greener leaves will be tougher, and will need to be placed towards the bottom of your cooking pot.

 

Begin rolling your leaves by laying each cut leaf vein side down on a flat surface. Add a small amount of meat and rice mixture to the edge of the leaf closest to you and roll into a tight log.

 

Begin stacking your cabbage rolls on top of the short ribs, making sure that all empty spaces are filled. This recipe should fill 2 cooking pots. Should you find that you have leftover meat and rice mixture from rolling cabbage, you can fill the optional tomatoes with the mixture and add them to the pot. After each layer of cabbage leaves is laid into the pot, throw a halved garlic clove onto the mix for additional flavor.

 

If you are prepping ahead of time, cover your pots and place them in the refrigerator until ready to cook, up to 24 hours. When ready to cook rolls, take them out of the refrigerator an hour ahead of cook time to bring to room temperature.

 

Before cooking, mix half of the tomato sauce jar with approximately 2½ cups of water and salt to taste. Pour liquid onto cabbage rolls, turning and tilting the pot to ensure the liquid is dispersed throughout the pot and in between each roll. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer, covered, for 2½ -3 hours.

 

When the rolls are finished cooking, place a large aluminum serving platter over the top of the pot and turn over so that the rolls are transferred easily to the serving platter without ripping.

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