Sochi Olympics is opening today and I can’t wait to watch the ceremony. I also can’t wait to have a Russian feast accompanying it! Authentic Russian food isn’t widely known outside of Russia and it’s a real shame. I admit not everything on the Russian menu will be love at first site but the same is true for any foreign food. I do know that whenever I make Russian food for my friends or my Canadian husband and his family they love it, with many items getting a call back.
Cabbage rolls is a dish that every Russian family makes. It’s a true comfort food for us, while managing to be quite healthy! Do you ever wonder how Russians survive long and cold winters without constantly coming down with colds? The secret is eating a lot of cabbage in the winter. How is it relevant? Cabbage has LOADS of vitamin C, more than oranges. These rolls are also stuffed with a mixture of extra lean protein- beef and pork, caramelized onions, carrots, lots of fresh parsley and rice and baked in a sour cream tomato sauce. It’s a one pot dish that takes a bit of time to prepare but once it’s in the oven it cooks hands free!
I’ve also tried a new method for separating cabbage leaves which was so much easier and faster. According to the traditional method you have to boil a head of cabbage for a short time until the leaves soften enough to pull them apart. Sounds easy enough but it turns out to be a lot of pain! You have to boil it long enough for the leaves to become pliable but not too long so they turn mushy, you have to pull that cabbage out of boiling water, burn your fingers in the process, cut away the outer leaves, then put it back in the water, then take it out again. Pain!
I’ve heard that it’s possible to freeze cabbage instead of boiling it with the same results. Sure enough, I froze it for a couple of days, then defrosted it and the leaves were very easy to separate and perfect for rolling! Success.
This recipe yields 8 serving plus leftovers which are very freezer friendly. Just pop them in freezer bags and you’ve got delicious dinner put away for a day in the future when you don’t feel like fussing in the kitchen.
- Cabbage- 2 small heads
- Rice- ½ cup
- Olive oil- 2 tbsp.
- Onion, chopped- 1 large
- Extra-lean ground beef- 1 lbs
- Extra-lean ground pork- 1 lbs
- Flat leaf parsley, chopped- 1 bunch
- Carrots, grated- 2
- Salt- 2 tsp.
- Pepper- 0.5 tsp.
- Bay leaf- 2-3
- Chicken stock- 1.5 cups
- Creme fraiche or sour cream- 1 cup
- Canned Tomatoes, crushed or Passata- 2 cups
- Freeze the cabbage 3 days before you need it. The night before defrost cabbage and keep it in the fridge until you are ready.
- Cook rice in plenty water the same way you would pasta until al dente, it shouldn't be too soft- about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- In a frying pan heat olive oil and cook onions over low heat for 7-10 minutes until tender.
- Grate carrots.
- In a large bowl combine beef, pork, parsley, onions, carrots, rice, salt and pepper.
- In a medium bowl whisk together stock, crushed tomatoes and creme fraiche. Set aside.
- Place your head of cabbage on a cutting board, cut off the bottom and pull the leaves aways from the stalk. Repeat with the second head of cabbage.
- Preheat your oven to 350F/180C.
- Clear your work space so all ingredients are within reach. Take a cabbage leaf and put 2 tbsp. of filling at the bottom of the wide part of a leaf (see picture above) and roll it like a burrito, tucking sides in. Your cabbage rolls will vary in size slightly depending on the size of cabbage leaves. You will have approximately 30-32 cabbage rolls.
- Pour a cup of the sauce on the bottom of your cast iron casserole or any other heavy bottom casserole and start stacking your cabbage rolls. Half way through add a couple of bay leaves and continue stacking until all cabbage rolls are gone.
- Pour the sauce over cabbage rolls, cover with a lid and bake in the oven for 1 hour.
- Then take the lid off and bake for 30 more minutes.
- Serve with additional sour cream or creme fraiche.