NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.
Cabbage rolls are found all over Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. They are staple dishes in Croatia, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, and Sweden; in Russia, they’re called голубцы (golubtsy) and make regular dinnertime appearances in most homes.
There is some controversy over the origin of the dish. One common theory is based on its name, which could be linked to the word Russian word for pigeons (голуби). Russian cuisine and culture was heavily influenced by the French in the 17th and 18th centuries, and these stuffed cabbage rolls could be an attempt to recreate roasted pigeons, a popular French dish at the time.
1 lb ground beef
1 cup cooked rice
1 head cabbage
1 onion, chopped finely
6 cloves garlic, chopped finely
2 carrots, shredded (1/2 cup)
1 tsp each salt, pepper, dried dill, prepared mustard
1 14oz can of tomato sauce
8 tbsp butter or ghee
additional 1/2 tsp pepper
This dish was the perfect opportunity to try out TX Bar Organics‘ ground beef. This 85% lean ground chuck was rich and flavorful and really stood out against the mild, subtle flavors of this dish. Highly recommended!
Chop the onion finely and set aside. Garlic too.
Warm 4 tbsp of the butter or ghee on medium heat for a couple minutes, then add the onion and sauté for about 10 minutes, until the onion is aromatic and translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute, then add the ground beef, salt, pepper, dill, and mustard. Continue to cook until most of the pink has been cooked out of the beef.
Add the cooked rice and carrot. Remove from heat and set aside as you work on your cabbage.
Cut out the core of the cabbage. Bring a stockpot half-full of water to a boil on high heat.
Drop the cabbage into the boiling water and press it down with the end of a wooden spoon. Hold it there for five minutes, until the cabbage softens. Pull the cabbage out of the water (I used two forks) and let it drain in a colander for a minute, but keep the water boiling. Peel off the leaves. If you get further down the cabbage and the leaves are hard and dry, drop the cabbage into the water for a few more minutes and repeat the process.
Place the cabbage on a cutting board and cut the spine out of it.
The next step is simple – put a spoonful of the ground beef into some cabbage and roll it together. There’s no foolproof way to do this, especially since the cabbage will be in various sizes and thicknesses; just put the filling near one end and roll it up toward the other end. Easy, right? You should be able to make about 18 cabbage rolls.
Place all the rolls in a casserole dish. Meanwhile, heat the other 4 tbsp of butter/ghee in a saucepan over medium heat for a minute or so, then add the tomato sauce and another 1/2 tsp of pepper, stir it together, and reduce the heat to med/low. Simmer the sauce for about five minutes.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spoon the sauce over the cabbage rolls, and bake everything for 45 minutes.
That’s it! Serve immediately, with sour cream if you’d like. Serves six (three per person).
My version of this dish was also featured in the latest Highbrow Paleo Cook Off, which had a requirement of ground meat, three veggies of different colors, and an optional starch (in this case white rice). Check out everyone else’s submissions!