Mariquita's Mystery Box included a gorgeous head of Savoy cabbage - and after contemplating several ideas, including kim chi - I remembered my grandmother's cabbage rolls, read a few recipes and decided to approximate my grandmother's version using her recipe of Pottsville Relish which I have made up every year since college (so I always have some on hand til early summer, at least!).
Her cabbage rolls were stuffed with rice, onions and some ground beef, swimming in a sweet & sour tomatoey sauce. It was always the sauce and the cabbage part that I liked best - the tomato not too thick, not too sweet and still savory. Most of the recipes I read either called for using cooked rice or uncooked rice (and rolling looser rolls).
Since I'm a big fan of risotto, I liked the idea of letting the water from the tomato sauce finish the rice, so this recipe calls for partially cooking the rice. If you happen to have cooked rice on hand - by all means, use it (waste not, want not!). I'm a big fan of reserving extra rice from Thai or Indian take out for use in dinners the following day. :)
This recipe has two parts, the filling and the sauce. I have included alternate instructions for ingredients that you may not have on hand.
STEP 1: Cabbage
In a large pot,place sufficient water and a steamer basket, bring to boil and put your washed head of cabbage inside. If the lid won't fit, improvise with a stainless steel mixing bowl. Let the whole head of cabbage steam on a med-hi simmer while you prepare the filling. I turned my cabbage over once, let the water nearly boil down and left it on the stove with the lid on until the very end.
STEP 2: Filling
Pull out your two largest cast iron skillets - I used #8 and #10. In the smaller pan, drizzle enough olive oil to cover the bottom and heat on medium-high. Add
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 1 cup mushroom stock
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 Tb dried thyme
- Black pepper to taste
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
In your other, larger skillet, heat the pan with a drizzle of olive oil, add:
- 1 qt cleaned & coarsely chopped chanterelle mushrooms (about 1.5# - substitute for portobellas or shitake)
Next, add a bit more olive oil to the emptied skillet and reheat it, add:
- 4-6 spring garlic (white & green part), cleaned & chopped (or 3-4 cloves garlic, minced)
- 1 healthy spring red onion (whole thing!), cleaned & chopped (or 3/4 to 1 c. finely chopped red onion)
- 2-3 coarsely shredded or julienned/chopped spring carrots (about 1/2 - 3/4 c carrot)
NOTE: Taste your filling! Does it taste good? Do you just want to sit down with a bowl of it or reserve i as a side dish? Check your spices, adjust if necessary.
STEP 3: Sauce
After you have emptied the larger skillet of garlic, onion & carrot - return the pan to the flame and deglaze with:
- 1 c red wine (whatever you have open!) or mushroom stock
- 1 Tb crushed dried rosemary
- (optional) 1 Tb crushed dried oregano, marjoram or tarragon
- 1 Tsp cayenne pepper flakes
- 1 pint San Marzano Tomato Sauce or other unseasoned tomato sauce (open a quart jar of store bought sauce don't use the whole thing all at once!)
- 1 pint Pottsville Relish (alt - 16 oz can chopped tomatoes & peppers plus 1/4 c vinegar & 1/4 sucanat)
- 1/2 c light vinegar (champagne, white wine or apple cider)
- 1/2 c sucanat (or 50/50 granulated & brown sugar)
- salt & pepper to taste
- herbs to taste - finely chopped fresh parsley or oregano
- (optional) 2 Tb smoked red jalapenos packed in olive oil or chili oil to taste, or toast & grind a piece of chipotle pepper to add some smoky heat
At this point, your cabbage should be cooling off and your filling should be cooling off, too. I let my sauce simmer for about 30-45 minutes, your time may vary based on the amount of water in your tomato sauce (my tomato sauce was very watery!).
STEP 4: Assemble
Prep cabbage by pulling the leaves off. Using scissors, cut off the thickest part of the spine with a V-cut. Make a nice big stack of leaves on your cutting board or plate.
Your filling should be cool enough to handle - take some and form a small ball - maybe 1/4 cup. Place it in a cabbage leaf - fold up the cut ends across each other, then the sides, then firmly roll and place into the pan with the loose side on the bottom.
Repeat until you fill your pan.
Cover the rolls with the sauce from your skillet. If it seems a bit thick - add a bit more sauce from your reserve or from the extra half pint - smooth with the back of a spoon.
Cover the casserole with foil or a lid and bake at 375 for about an hour -- you want it to be nice and bubbly, with sauce thickening up on top, water from the sauce working down into the rolls to finish cooking the rice inside the rolls.
YIELD: 10 x 16 baking dish of 16-20 rolls, depending on your cabbage and how you roll'em! You could also put some rolls and sauce into glass or metal baking dishes to freeze and heat up later (yum!) - if you have that kind of space in your freezer!
Postscript: many of the ingredients came from my own yard (herbs mostly) or from Mariquita (carrots, spring garlic, red onion, savoy cabbage, San Marzanos for tomato sauce, red jalapenos that I smoked and preserved, sweet peppers & tomatoes in the Pottsville Relish, even the cayenne peppers that I dehydrated and made into flakes!).