Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas 2011, Stuffed Cabbage

Not turkey.  Not a soft fillet of white fish.  Not even a ham.

Stuffed cabbage, people.  Stuffed with pork.

This entry chronicles my attempt to cook a traditional Hungarian Christmas dish as an American (Kansan) married to a Hungarian living in the Northeast.  This dish is always better the second day (notice a theme here?) and so I have started on Christmas Eve.  My family celebrates with the arrival of the angels, tree, and festive meal on Christmas afternoon.  Pictures and list of ingredients at end.

I consulted various websites and cookbooks, as well as my mother-in-law about this dish.  Here is how I am making it this Christmas Eve morn:

Remove the outer leaves of a cabbage and rinse well.  Drop the entire head into a large pot of boiling water for about 7 minutes.  Remove the head from the water (so easily said, very awkwardly done).  Then nip (<------technical term) the base of a leaf and peel it away whole from the head.  Continue doing this until the leaves will not come away in one piece.  Then return the entire head to the boiling pot for 2 - 3 minutes. (Leave pot boiling until you finish.)  Remove more leaves, returning the head to the pot as needed.  I returned the cabbage twice to the pot.  I was able to peel about 15 leaves off my cabbage.

Remove the core from the cabbage and discard.  Chop the remaining cabbage and set aside.

Prepare the leaves by paring down each stem so that it is the same thickness as the rest of the leaf.

For the meat filling:

Dice one large onion and add it to a dutch oven pot with a bit of canola oil to soften for 5 minutes or so. Add 1 teaspoon of sweet paprika and 1/2 cup white rice and let cook for about 3 minutes.  Let this mixture cool.

Blend with hands 1 kilo ground pork, two eggs, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 2 teaspoons salt, and rice mixture.

Here is the description from Habeas  I followed about how to stuff the cabbage leaves:

To fill each cabbage leaf, set the leaf on the table rib-side down, so that it naturally curves into a sort of cup waiting to be filled. Roll small handfuls of meat into oblong patties that fit the size of the leaves, and place the filling on the cabbage leaf, near the bottom of the leaf. Fold the sides of the leaf over the filling, and roll the cabbage around the meat, being sure to tuck the bottom end of the rib around the filling to keep it all snugly wrapped.

Now mix the chopped up cabbage with a 25 ounce jar of sauerkraut.  Place a layer of the sauerkraut mixture in pot and then layer your little cabbage packages on top.  Repeat sauerkraut mixture layer and then another layer of stuffed cabbages until you reach the end of your supply.  Place remainder of sauerkraut mixture on top.  Here I began to doubt my amount of sauerkraut (gut feeling.  don't ask.) and so I opened a second jar and added about another cup or two.  Then cover the entire contents with water.  Bring to boil.  Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes.

At this point I followed Habeas Brulee to make the sauce.  She recommends:

A few minutes before your kitchen timer goes off, make a roux by browning the flour in a bit of oil in a separate pan. Stir in the paprika, then remove from heat. Add the sugar, salt, and tomato paste, and mix well. Ladle some of the water out of the cooking cabbage pot and mix in with the paste, just to thin it out. Add the thinned paste back into the pot with the cabbage, and carefully stir it in to dissolve it in the water. My grandmother instructed me to the shake the pot to get the paste mixed in, but my pot was too full for me to risk that.

But here is what really happened:  I was distracted and instead of mixing the paprika into the roux, I added the tomato paste.  At that point I removed it from the heat and added the paprika, sugar, and salt.  Oh well.  My mother-in-law told my husband that she makes the meat (and I assume the sauce) the same way she makes them for stuffed peppers.  I am apparently inspired from numerous sources and will just see what happens.....

I stirred in the tomato paste mixture, gently, gently as my pot was filled to the rim.  Now I am wait another 30 minutes before I test for doneness (meat) and flavor.

The test taste:

At 1 hour of cooking, the meat is done.  It tastes a bit salty to me.  The dish is not bad.  But it is not amazing.  Unfortunately I do not have a childhood of flavor memories to reference here.  I'll have to ask the resident Hungarian to do a taste test.

And the consensus was:  it is not bad.  perhaps, even good. but a bit bland.  Today I  happened to have served kolbasz (sausage) and mashed potatoes for lunch.  (And roasted peppers, made the night before.  Just saying.)  In true Hungarian style we decided that the one remaining spicy Italian pork sausage could only improve the stuffed cabbage.  And it has been added to the pot.

Now we will let it sit overnight and serve it for Christmas dinner tomorrow.  With sour cream, of course.  And homemade white rolls.

Preparing the tidy little cabbage rolls.

My pot was filled to the brim.

After the tomato paste mixture is added.

Very Sexy, indeed.

Taste Test

A few notes:  Next time I would use even less rice.  I would also use either bacon or sausage in the initial cooking to take it to the next level.  Also, I would make my meat filling more oblong instead of round in shape.  I should have counted, but did not and so can say that I ended up with about 15 cabbage rolls and that I had enough meat left over for two more.

Tinkering with the pot on the day after Christmas:  I added 1 teaspoon marjoram, 1 bay leaf and the remainder of the sauerkraut (about 2 cups).  Much improved!  I will definitely add these to the recipe and perhaps extra cooking time as well.

Revised Recipe for Next Time:

1 head cabbage, leaves steamed off and remainder diced
2 x 25 ounce jars sauerkraut

1 large onion
1/3 cup white rice
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 pounds ground pork
2 eggs
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt

oil (for roux)
2 teaspoons flour
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 6 ounce jars of tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
salt to taste if needed
2 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried majoram leaves

Also contemplate adding sausage or bacon to pot.

Here is a sight with way too much information about stuffed cabbage:

1 comment:

S.E.Minegar said...

loving the chef in you!

happy christmas to you (and fam)!