Thursday, July 6, 2017

Hungarian-Style Stuffed Cabbage Rolls


½ cup uncooked long grain white rice
¾ teaspoon black pepper
1 can (6-ounce) tomato paste
1 can (26 to 28 ounce) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1-½ to 2 teaspoons salt
2 lbs sauerkraut, rinsed, drained and squeezed dry
2 tablespoons oil
2 to 3 medium heads cabbage
3 to 4 cups tomato juice, divided
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 strips hardwood smoked bacon


Prepare the cabbage

There are 2 methods for preparing the cabbage leaves for rolling. One is to core the cabbage and steam the whole heads until tender. The other is to freeze the raw heads of cabbage in advance. The leaves will soften as they defrost, eliminating the need for steaming. The freezer method is much easier, but you do need to plan ahead.

Freezer Method

Rinse the heads of cabbage and peel away the 2 outermost leaves and discard them. Pat each head dry and wrap them tightly with plastic wrap. Place the wrapped heads in a freezer bag and freeze until solid, 12 to 18 hours (depending on your freezer). Allow at least 24 hours for the cabbages to defrost in the refrigerator. Be sure to place a shallow pan under them as they release a lot of water as they thaw.

Steam Method

Remove the cores and 2 outermost leaves from each head of cabbage. Add 2 to 3 inches of water to a large pot fitted with a steaming rack. Bring the water to a boil and place a head (or two if the pot is large enough) of cabbage in the pot. Cover and steam for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the leaves are tender and pliable enough to separate and roll. It may be helpful to remove the cabbage midway through the cooking time, remove a few of the most tender outer leaves and return the head to the pot to finish cooking.

Continue preparing the cabbage leaves for rolling by removing them from the heads, layer by layer. Set the leaves aside, blotting any excess moisture with a kitchen towel as you work. Depending on the diameter of your cabbages, you will need between 30 and 40 leaves to accomodate the quantity of meat in this recipe. Reserve the remaining cabbage for chopping.

To ensure easy rolling, it's best to pare away the thickest portion of the center vein of each cabbage leaf. To do this, turn each leaf outer side up and insert the point of a paring knife just under the thinnest part of the center vein.

Slice away the thick portion of the vein, being careful not to make holes in the leaf. Reserve the veins for chopping.

Prepare the filling

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the uncooked rice and stir until nicely coated with oil. Continue cooking, stirring continually, for about 2 minutes, then add the garlic.

Continue to sauté until the rice is lightly toasted and golden in color, 3 to 4 minutes more. Be sure to stir continually to prevent the garlic from browning. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.

Place the pork and beef in a large bowl. Add the salt, pepper and the cooled onion-rice mixture. Using your hands, combine thoroughly, making sure that the seasonings and rice are evenly distributed throughout the meat.

Make the cabbage rolls

To roll the cabbage, place a leaf, inner side up on a towel. Place 1-½ to 2 tablespoons of the meat mixture at the bottom, center of the leaf. Roll up, using just enough pressure to make a firm roll without splitting the leaf.

Using a paring knife, trim away the sides of the cabbage leaf, leaving about ¾-inch of unfilled cabbage on either side for tucking in. Set aside the trimmings for chopping.

Using your thumb and middle finger on either side of the roll, gently tuck the ends of the cabbage into the meat mixture, forming sort of a dimple on each end. Set the finished rolls aside as you work.

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