Cooking and baking are NOT the same. I learned this definitively when I asked a friend of my mother’s for her stuffed cabbage recipe. She couldn’t give either to me because she had never measured herself while cooking; she learned from her mother-in-law. I’ve never baked on the fly! So, one day she and I made time, and she made these two recipes as I constantly asked, “how much of that?” and wrote furiously.
This is Croatian stuffed cabbage fantastic recipe. This came straight from Croatia. You will not find its equal unless you have access to a Croatian mama to cook for you.
These were my introduction to cabbage rolls, and I have been hooked ever since. While gathering this recipe, I learned an essential Croatian lesson: good company makes it better while the food may be great. This recipe will feed many people, so you can either invite over a few pals and polish off the whole thing or eat “en famille” and freeze the remains for future frivolities. You can use any ground meat you like – turkey, chicken, beef, and pork.
Savoury Croatian Stuffed Cabbage
- 1 medium yellow onion - diced
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 1 head cabbage - steamed and cored
- 2 ½ pounds ground beef (minced beef)
- 1 teaspoon mustard powder
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 teaspoon marjoram
- 1 cup white rice - uncooked
- You can buy the parsley and chop it ahead of time, then freeze it and take out only as much as you need. Fresh beats the daylights out of dried, so it’s worth it, and you will have it to use any time.
- You can also prepare these ahead of time by boiling the tomatoes only long enough to loosen the skin, then let them cool and peel them.
- Beforehand, prepare the cabbage by either freezing it for a week and then thawing it or steaming it until it’s loose but sturdy and allowing it to cool.
- When it is room temperature, core the cabbage. Set it aside for later.
- Put the ground meat in the large bowl. Sautée the diced onion in about 2 tablespoons of oil, saving the oil in the skillet for later.
- Remove the onions when they are translucent and add them to the meat.
- Next, add the sour cream, mustard powder, 3/4 cup of parsley, 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper, 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 tablespoon paprika, 1 tablespoon of black pepper, 1 tablespoon of thyme, and 1 tablespoon of marjoram, and 1 cup of rice. Mix together by hand in the bowl so you can feel it when all of the ingredients are completely integrated.
- Add about 5 inches of water to the boiler. Pull a leaf off of the head and place it in your hand, with the base of the leaf at the heel of your hand and the spine-side facing you. Starting from the narrow, inner end of the spine and working toward the base of the leaf, shave off enough of the spine to even it with the rest of the leaf surrounding it – evening, the spine simplifies the rolling process. (After you’ve cut a few spines, you ought to be able to do this with one quick slice.) Flip the leaf over so that the spine is in your palm, the edge outer edge of the leaf is at your fingertips, and the natural curve of the leaf allows you to cup your hand to mimic its shape.
- Place a rectangular blob of the filling in the cup formed by the leaf, about an inch up from the bottom edge. Roll from the base up to the edge of the leaf, and poke the sides in to enclose the stuffing completely. Place each roll in the boiler as you complete it. When you get to the tiny leaves, tear them up and throw them into the pot. Ball up any leftover filling and throw it in as well. Add the 16 ounces of cooked, peeled tomatoes, breaking them up somewhat with your hands.
- Add enough water to cover the rolls, and sprinkle on top some thyme, marjoram, chopped parsley and 1 bay leaf. Use your judgement on seasoning – you can always put it in, but you can’t take it out again.
- In the skillet, brown about 1/4 cup of flour in the leftover oil. When it is brown and lumpy, thin it to smoothness with water and add a dash each of paprika, salt, pepper, marjoram, thyme, and then thin down to smoothness again. This is a sort of roux designed to thicken the liquid in the pot.
- Add the roux to the pot, and again make sure that all of the rolls are covered with fluid. Cover pot and cook on medium heat until it boils, then reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours.
- Right before you serve, pour in the tomato sauce and cook for a few more minutes.