9/7/05 | Cabbage Rolls
[ Currently Eating: Massively Helpful Coffee ]
Cabbage rolls aren’t much to look at sometimes and they sure contribute to, er, gassiness. But they can make a really nice meal and can be made out of stuff that I usually have in the fridge and freezer. I’m not too sure of the origins (German?) of the cabbage roll but I’ve been eating it at my parent’s house since I was a little kid. Since I’ve moved out I’ve tried once or twice to make them with varying degrees of success.
Basically, the cabbage roll I know is like a mini meatloaf that is wrapped in a cabbage leaf. I know some use a toothpick to secure the leaf, but I like to pre-boil the cabbage leaves so that they’re easier to wrap. I also put leftover rice in it, which tends to make it more tender and also uses up that rice in the fridge that is always there. I also use a mixture of Ground Beef and Ground Pork… The pork makes it more tender but too much might make it have a gamy “pork” smell. You can also use ground veal and ground beef like that in a meatloaf mixture but I don’t.
Here is one variation of a recipe that I made (just barely squeaked under $3 but your mileage may vary either cheaper or more expensive:
2/3 lb. Ground Beef — $1.00
1/3 lb. Ground Pork — $.0.33
1 cabbage, core removed — $0.45
Brown Onion (1/2 an onion) — $0.25
1 cup of cooked rice — $0.10
Parmesan cheese (1/8 oz of $3.50 8oz can) — $0.05
1 egg — $0.10
Parsley (1/4 cup chopped from $0.69 bunch) — $0.06
Homemade Breadcrumbs — free
1/2 can Chicken Stock — $0.25
1 8 oz Can Tomato Sauce — $0.30
Olive oil (1 tbsp) — $0.08
Water / Salt / pepper — negligible
I like to boil the cabbage leaves first to make them easier to wrap. You need a huge pot of water, salt it a bit and get it boiling. Meantime, if you don’t like crunchy onions in your meat (I don’t) mince the 1/2 onion fine and start simmering it in a pan with olive oil. When it sucks up all the oil, add some water. Keep adding water every so often while cooking… you want the onions to be really soft, almost mushy.
Drain the cabbage and separate the leaves. You can also separate the leaves first before boiling. Set the cabbage aside. In a large bowl combine ground beef, ground pork, rice, parmesan cheese, egg, breadcrumbs (I make my own from bread loaf ends so it’s free), and parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste (you can also throw in some soy sauce, worcestshire sauce, garlic powder, etc.) Mix well to combine.
Take a scoop of meat mixture, place it on a cabbage leaf and roll it up until all the meat is covered. Place it in a lightly oiled deep sauce pan, seam side down; that way you don’t need to use toothpicks. Continue filling the pan. I try to have only 1 layer of cabbage rolls. Add the tomato sauce and chicken stock and about 1/4-3/4 cup water. Shake the pan a bit to make sure the sauce has coated the rolls. Cook on very low heat, covered, for about 40 min to 1.5 hours. Check the rolls every so often to make sure there’s enough liquid in the pan… if not, add some water or chicken stock.
I cut one of the rolls open to show the inside here, but these pictures don’t do justice to how good cabbage rolls taste. It’s sort of comfort food and is fairly easy to make. For variety, you can also use the same method to make Stuffed Bell Peppers, though I tend to have cabbage on hand more times than peppers.
The rice isn’t necessary and neither are the simmered onions, but both help keep the meat inside nice and tender and flavorful. Parsley or other herbs help lend a bit of freshness to the meatloaf-like taste. I put parmesan cheese in to add more flavor but you can omit that, and I know some who put either milk or melted butter into the mixture. That’s the fun thing about meatloaf based meals, you can pretty much make up your own recipe!
Cheap Eats Score: 8/10