Friday, December 17, 2010

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Pigs in a Blanket)

Stuffed cabbage rolls are both healthy and economical.

When I grew up outside of Chicago, stuffed cabbage was called "pigs in a blanket." The "pig" was a reference to using all pork for the filling. The cabbage was its "blanket." It was a not uncommon food served at weddings and anniversaries in church basements. I have tried many recipes through the years. Most have some kind of tomato sauce. Jewish stuffed cabbage is sweet-sour. Germans use sauerkraut. The following uses a nice balance between tomatoes and sauerkraut and the beef/pork filling in not heavy or compacted like most. I've prepared them without the sauerkraut but found them lacking in taste.

To save time and to improve the flavor, prepare the meat mixture the night before and store, covered, in the refrigerator overnight. Bring to room temperature before using.

Removing the cabbage leaves is not complicated. I do not subscribe to the practice of placing the head of cabbage in the freezer and then peeling them loose after it has thawed. It creates a "rubbery" leaf that cooks up tough. Simmering the head in boiling water does not take long.

It is important to allow the stuffed cabbage to sit for about 30-60 minutes before serving so they absorb the liquid. It is particularly good as leftovers. And always serve with a dollop of sour cream.

  • 1, 3.5 - 4 lb. head of green cabbage
  • 1 pound ground chuck
  • 1/2 lb. ground pork
  • 3/4 cup raw, long-grained rice
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 bunch curly parsley, chopped, leaves only
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 egg
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1-2 teaspoons regular table salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2-3 dashes Cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1, 14.5-oz. can sauerkraut, rinsed and squeezed dry (generic brand is fine)*
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups beef stock, canned is fine
  • 1 cup water
  • 1, 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes 
  • You will need a very large pot or Dutch oven. I use an oval, enamel-lined cast iron Dutch
  • oven that measures around 12" x 10" and is 5" deep.

In a large bowl, combine the ground chuck, ground pork, egg, melted butter, garlic, salt, pepper, chopped parsley, Cayenne, smoked paprika and allspice. Mix well. Put a small spoonful on a plate and microwave for 15-30 seconds. Taste for seasonings and readjust if necessary. Cover bowl and refrigerate overnight if possible. Bring to room temperature before stuffing cabbage.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, a pot large enough to hold the entire head of cabbage. Reduce to a simmer. Using a sharp, pointed knife, remove the stem-part of the cabbage by making cuts around and into it. Clean up the inside of the core a bit more so leaves will loosen easier when placed in hot water.

Put the entire head into the simmering water. After a few minutes, the first leaf will loosen easily from the head of cabbage. Using tongs, remove to a large bowl or pan. About every minute or so, another leaf will loosen. Continue removing leaves until they are too small to use as a cabbage roll and just the center of the cabbage remains. Remove and save. When cool, chop it up.

Choose 12-14 of the best cabbage leaves to use for the rolls. Save several leaves that will be placed on top of the finished cabbage rolls. Divide the meat into equal portions.

Using a sharp knife, "filet" the white rib of the cabbage by shaving down the thickness of the rib so it is the same thickness of the cabbage leaf itself.

Form a sausage-like roll and place just above the stem edge of the cabbage. Roll up once to cover. Now fold in each side toward the center and then roll, like a burrito.

Continue rolling cabbage, adjusting meat a bit to accommodate size of leaf. Set aside.

Peel onion and slice into thin rings. Chop the remaining center of the cabbage. Place half of chopped cabbage on bottom of pot. Spread with half the onion. Scatter some of the sauerkraut over that. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper if desired. Now spoon half the crushed tomatoes over cabbage-onion-sauerkraut layer. Place half of your stuffed cabbage rolls on top. Remember, they will expand as the cook because of the rice, so do not pack too tightly. If you have any leftover cabbage leaves, tuck some in-between.

Now add the remaining chopped cabbage, onion, sauerkraut and tomatoes. Add the last layer of cabbage rolls tucking in any leftover cabbage you may have. Add beef and chicken stock. Add about 1 cup water to empty tomato can and swirl to pick up the rest of the tomato pulp and then add to pot. Cover with several cabbage leaves. Cover tightly with lid and bake in a 350-degree oven for one hour.

After one hour, remove and check. Be sure rolls are covered with liquid. If necessary, add a bit more water. Return to oven and cook an additional one hour.

After two hours total cooking time, remove from oven. Lift lid just a crack and allow to rest for 40-60 minutes so cabbage rolls have time to absorb any more liquid. Remove to a serving bowl with remaining juices and cabbage/sauerkraut mixture. Serve with mashed potatoes and, if desired, corn or green beans.