First things first: Our cabbage is coming in and we basically have three uses for it: cole slaw, stir fries and stuffed cabbage. I’m not ready for cole slaw yet, and we just had Asian food so this was the default result. It is a recipe from my family and was pretty much the only way I would eat cabbage when I was a kid.
A caveat before we get started: We grow a variety of cabbage called Tiara, which have much smaller heads than the gigantic cabbages you find in grocery stores. So, the cabbage rolls here are much smaller than what you would expect using a standard head. Also, I’m still trying to work through all the damned tomato puree from last year’s harvest, which means I made a sauce instead of using the method here. Use your limited imagination and figure it out.
Here’s what you’ll need:
1 Head Cabbage
1 Lb. Ground Beef
1 Pkg. Bacon
2 16 oz. Cans Whole Tomatoes
1 Sm. Onion, diced
Spices of your own choosing.
Start a large pot of water to boil. In the meantime, cut the bacon into pieces and fry with the onion. This is one of an exceptionally small number of times when less-than-crisp bacon is acceptable. That being said, do not mistake this small concession as carte blanche for you to use floppy, barely cooked, bacon, because that is—and always will be—bullshit. The bacon should show a little brown on the edges and a thin brown coating should become evident on the bottom of the pan.
Pour in one of the cans of tomatoes and deglaze the pot by scraping up the browned bits from the bottom, while breaking up the tomatoes. Add the spices of your choice and simmer for a few minutes. Turn off the heat and add the ground beef, breaking it up thoroughly. No, the object is not to cook the beef at this point. No, this will not kill you. Stop your whining.
Remove the core from the cabbage and begin CAREFULLY removing the individual leaves from the head. Cabbage leaves are notoriously prone to tearing at the slightest provocation, so the best way to do this is to start pulling the leaves from the core end of the head, rather than from the thin end of the leaf. Even with this method, you’ll still tear a few leaves. Yes, you will have failed, but rest assured that your failure is just a state of your whole being and not limited to this one, simple task.
When the water is boiling, add the separated cabbage leaves and turn off the heat. Allow the leaves to blanch for maybe a minute—no more—stirring a little bit to make sure all the leaves get submerged. You’re blanching cabbage, not cooking it. Pour the pot out into a colander and rinse the cabbage with cold water to stop the cooking process. Your leaves should be soft and pliable, but not disintegrating when you pick them up.
Place one of the leaves in an ungreased casserole dish and fill with a scoop or two of the filling. Then roll the leaf up and secure with a toothpick. Lather, rinse, repeat, until either all of your leaves, or all of your filling, has been used up. If you are good at this, your yield should be perfect…but we know how this is going to go, don’t we?
Pour the remaining 16 ounce can of tomatoes over the top of the stuffed cabbage and bake in a 350-degree oven for an hour.
Scoop each roll out with a serving spoon for plating. Either remove the toothpicks right then and there, or feel free to play Russian Roulette at the dinner table with your guests. Serve with some lightly sauteed vegetables, a salad, and a healthy dose of smug satisfaction.