stuffed cabbage rolls

4 to 6    |   
Prep Time:
30 minutes    |   
Cook Time:
45 minutes

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stuffed cabbage rolls

Hands down, my least favorite food is corned beef (does anybody like it?). Hands up, I’m a huge cabbage fan. Especially this past year when I’ve made it so many ways, the best being lemony coleslaw, and roasted and caramelized, and stirred into Samin Nosrat’s Tuscan Bean & Kale Soup, a 2020 survival recipe. But when I saw a beautiful head of curly cabbage in the market last week, I got the urge to stuff it.

I didn’t want this to be a big project, so I streamlined a recipe from my Braises & Stews book and figured out a way to simmer a quick sauce while assembling the rolls. And the rolling was actually fun once I realized it’s like folding a burrito: top down, sides in, roll up. Because my head of cabbage wasn’t ginormous, the rolls were smallish and elegant. That curly look makes them pretty, but if you can only find regular cabbage, that’s fine. I serve them over a swoosh of yogurt, but you can leave that out if you prefer. And, just so you know, these smell wonderful while they’re cooking. None of that corned beef and cabbage aroma for St. Patrick’s week.

1/2 yellow or red onion, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup red or white wine
1 can (14 oz) chopped tomatoes
1 heaping teaspoon honey
kosher salt

1 head green cabbage, preferably curly
1 pound ground beef
1/4 cup uncooked white rice
3 green onions, including tops, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten lightly
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus extra sprigs for garnish
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, if you have it
freshly ground pepper
1 cup Greek yogurt, to serve (optional)

Prepare the sauce: In a sauté pan, cook the onion in the oil until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute or until the tomato paste starts to darken. Pour in the wine and stir until it has evaporated a little, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, honey, and a hefty pinch of salt. Fill the empty tomato can with water and swish it around, then pour liquid into pan. Bring sauce to a boil then reduce heat, cover, and simmer while you prepare the rolls.

Bring a wide pot of salted water to a boil. Core the cabbage then drop the whole head into boiling water, cored side down. Cover pot and boil until leaves soften and can be pulled off easily with tongs, 5 to 8 minutes. Lift out cabbage and peel off 12 outer leaves, spreading them out on paper towels to dry. (Keep remaining cabbage handy in case you need extra leaves.)

Prepare the rolls: In a bowl, combine the ground beef, rice, green onions, egg, dill, Worcestershire sauce, 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, and several grindings of pepper. Blend with your hands or a fork until well mixed. Scoop up a scant 1/4 cup of the mixture, shape with your hands into an elongated ball, and place on the underside of a cooked cabbage leaf, setting about one third of the way from the top of the leaf. Fold top of leaf over filling, fold in sides like a burrito, then carefully roll up. With tongs, place cabbage roll seam side down in the tomato sauce pan and continue with remaining filling and leaves, snuggling rolls into the pan with the sauce. Cover pan and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes.

To serve, spread a spoonful of yogurt on the bottom of a plate, if using. Place 2 to 3 cabbage rolls on each plate, spoon tomato sauce over and around them, and garnish with dill sprigs.