About a month ago, I was on Ye Olde Facebook (doing something completely constructive and not at all wasting a bit of time) when a high-school friend of mine posted a link to a fresh goods delivery service called Washington's Green Grocers (check them out at www.washingtonsgreengrocer.com). Their mission is "to provide excellent quality produce and locally and regionally produced products as well as stellar customer service to every customer while helping to grow, support and encourage sustainable local agriculture." They do this by delivering fresh boxes of produce to your door once a week - I was intrigued enough by the idea that I ordered a box. I have good intentions of making it to the farmers market every weekend and fail. Better it come to me, right?
After my first delivery, I was hooked. The mix of foods has been fresh, eclectic, and, at times, culinarily challenging...what does one do with kohlrabi, exactly? How do you cook bok choy? I've been finding out the answers to these type of questions, week by week, as the delicious deliveries keep rolling in.
This past week, my delivery included a large, firm, healthy head of green cabbage. I happen to enjoy boiled cabbage, but had never actually cooked it myself - to be honest, I've only ever had it once, at a friend's house about 15 years ago. I remember liking it very much (to my surprise, at the time) and was excited to see it in my WGG shipment.
My dilemma though - what to do with it? I didn't want to just boil and be done with it, I wanted to try something new. So I did what I always do and looked into cabbage meals on the one and only allrecipes.com until I found a recipe that made to stop and say "yes, this is it." A cabbage roll.
First, set your oven to 350 degrees. Boil 2/3 of a cup of water in a small pot, then add 1/3 of a cup of rice and let it simmer for 20 minutes. While the rice is cooking, start another large pot of water boiling. Carefully remove 8 leaves of cabbage from the head (either free-hand it raw, freeze it before removing the leaves, boil the entire head, or score the bottom and nuke it for a few minutes...there are many ways to do it without ripping the leaves. I free-handed.). Boil the cabbage leaves for 2-4 minutes until soft. Set aside on a paper towel to drain.
Take 1 pound of ground beef and mix it in a large bowl with 1/4 of a chopped sweet onion, a slightly beaten egg, 1/2 packet of onion soup mix, 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper, 1 teaspoon of salt, and a tablespoon each of minced garlic, lemon juice, brown sugar, and worcestershire sauce. Add the cooked rice to the meat and mix well.
Divide the meat mixture evenly between the 8 cabbage leaves. Fold the sides of the cabbage leaves into the middle, then roll the cabbage starting from the stem and working upwards. This should give you a nice, tight cabbage roll. Place seam-side down in a medium-sized baking dish. Repeat until all the leaves are rolled.
It was here in the recipe that my mother-in-law came into the kitchen and saw that I had planned on using a can of tomato sauce to top the rolls with. I was, in no uncertain terms, told that using a red sauce on cabbage rolls was quite possibly the the work of the devil and that my very Swedish grandfather-in-law would roll over in his grave if I defiled them in such fashion. FOR ALL THAT IS GOOD AND SWEDISH, DO NOT TOP THESE ROLLS WITH TOMATO SAUCE. Instead, cover the rolls with about a cup of beef broth before popping them in the oven. Bake for about 45-60 minutes, or until the leaves have browned slightly on top and the meat mixture is cooked through.
These cabbage rolls are luscious and delectable. The cabbage came out perfect, not a hint of rubbery texture to be found. The meat mixture was savory and succulent, with the sweetness of the brown sugar contrasting nicely with the deep flavor of the worcestershire sauce. I used fresh garlic cloves that I put through a garlic press (something a girlfriend of mine always does, I've taken this cue from her) and I truly believe that had a noticeable effect on the dish as well. The rolls stayed together - no need for string or toothpicks. It can be eaten by hand or with a knife and fork. Your choice. Just get it in your belly one way or the other.
While there were more steps in this recipe than I am used to, this dish was very simple to prepare and the results were outstanding. I will definitely be making this again.
Have you braved the cabbage roll before? Where do you stand on the red sauce or brown debate? Tell me in the comments!