Friday, September 18, 2009
In direct betrayal of the German side of my heritage, I am not a cabbage lover. I can tolerate cole slaw once in a while, but only if it's laying on top of a big old bbq brisket sandwich.
No cooked cabbage, particularly not that nasty sweet and sour red cabbage that sends my father into a swoon.
And sauerkraut? Forget it.
My father even likes the Sauerkraut Salad of White Trash Motherlode fame. It boggles the mind how much he adores that stinky, cruciferous stuff.
I was riffling thorough some old recipes the other day and came across a recipe for Stuffed Cabbage Rolls. My mother made them a few times growing up, and, if memory serves me, I think I sort of liked them. Probably because there's not that much cabbage IN them. And, if memory serves me, Mama's cabbage rolls were the only edible cabbage rolls on the planet.
Other people's Stuffed Cabbage Rolls are vile concoctions, to be avoided at all costs. Because other people stuff hideous crap like pine nuts, raisins, or bulghur into theirs. And they muck up the sauce with lots of vinegar and sugar, so it becomes this viscous, sweet/tart monstrosity. Shudder.
Curiosity got the better of me. I mean, had I really eaten Stuffed Cabbage Rolls as a child and survived the experience? Or do I clearly have early-onset Alzheimers, because looking at the recipe, I can't believe I ate them. The filling reads suspiciously like....God, can I even say it? *M.L.* My life-long nemesis.
I decided, against my better judgement, that I needed to try this recipe. I went to the store and bought a head of cabbage--an item that had never graced my cart. Ever.
Just to add a little drama to the experience, I decided to serve Stuffed Cabbage Rolls on the eve of my 9th Anniversary. Clearly, I was testing the devotion of my husband. He was expecting something sexy, like filet mignon or seafood paella.
When I placed this little steaming plate of Deutchland in front of him, he looked at me, dumbfounded.
"It's an experiment," I said.
To his credit, he dug in. He's a trooper, my man is.
Verdict: Not bad! Oddly kind of comforting, if not just a little bland. I think we're so used to eating spicy food that if I make them again I'll throw in some Harissa or chile flakes. We ate a couple and decided that Stuffed Cabbage Rolls aren't evil.
However, the next day I boxed up the leftovers and took them to the one person I knew would appreciate them most.
This girl knows her daddy.
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls*
12 large cabbage leaves
1 1/4 lbs. ground beef
1 cup cooked rice**
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons oil
2 (8 oz.) cans Hunt's Tomato Sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Cover cabbage leaves with boiling water and let stand for 5 minutes or until limp; drain. Combine beef, rice, pepper, salt, garlic, onion, egg and thyme.
Trim any stiff spines off of the cabbage leaves. Place equal portions of the meat mixture in the center of each leaf. Fold sides of each leaf over meat; roll up and fasten closed with toothpicks.
In a large electric skillet***, heat oil. Brown rolls on all sides. Combine tomato sauce, sugar, lemon juice and water. Add to the skillet. Simmer covered, one hour, basting often with the sauce in the pan.
* And no, the filling for these does NOT look suspiciously like meat loaf. No! It does NOT. I'm tellin' ya.
** It's best if you undercook the rice just slightly. That way, it doesn't get mushy in the end.
*** It goes to show you how ancient this recipe is by the reference to an electric skillet. Do you remember those things? Mama had one and made my favorite fried pork chops in it. I don't have one. I'm not even sure if they make those suckers any more. You can use a large saute pan or, if you are lazy like me, skip the browning step altogether and bake the Cabbage Rolls in a large covered casserole dish in a 350 degree oven for an hour, basting occasionally.
Posted by TKW at 9:00 AM