Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cabbage Rolls like my Mother Used to Make - Vegetarian

When I crave the taste of cabbage rolls,or holubchi,  I make the lazy version - as outlined in an earlier blog. For special occasions I will make the authentic kind - rice actually rolled into cabbage leaves and simmered in a low oven for several hours. This is the kind my late mother used to make. Only hers were dainty and petite and of uniform size. Mine - not!

They are picky and time consuming to make so it is a rare occasion indeed that I deign to make them. On Dec.25th we were going to my nephews home for dinner, so I volunteered to make cabbage rolls to take along.

The pickiest part is preparing the cabbage for rolling. I use the steamer basket of my stock pot to prepare the cabbage. I get an early start so there's plenty of time to get each stage done.
Because the job tends to be messy and wet, I like to spread a nice clean towel on my work surface and get started. I'll be using the towel to separate the cabbage leaves from the head and allow them to cool on it.

Cabbage Rolls

1 med. cabbage
2 cups long grain rice
1 large onion
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cans tomato soup

Stage 1: Preparing the cabbage

1. Cut the hard bottom off the cabbage and make slits around the base of the core. This is to allow steam to get in and make the leaves easier to remove. Remove any imperfect outer leaves and save. Wash thoroughly.

2. Place the cabbage in the steamer basket , core side down, and allow to steam for a good 10 minutes before checking to see if the outer leaves can be easily removed. After 10 minuted, remove steamer basket. You should be able to remove a few of the outer leaves. I got 5 on the first go and that seems to be all I could get per round of steaming.

They must come off the cabbage easily and be removed without tearing. As soon as you feel resistance, it's time to put the cabbage back into the steamer for more steaming. Deepen the slits around the core - being careful not to cut too deep in order not to damage leaves. You may have to cut away a little more at the base of the leaves in order to free it from the cabbage with each removal round.
 Continue with this process until all leaves of a size that will be suitable for rolling have been removed. The closer you get to the inside of the cabbage, the thicker the leaves. Return the loose leaves to the steamer for several minutes to soften. They'll collapse into the steamer and lose stiffness.
Trim the thick center ribs as thin as possible without making a hole in the cabbage.

Stage 2: Preparing the Rice

1. Partially cook the rice. Normally water to rice is a 2:1 ratio. For par-cooking, I use a 1:1.
2. Saute onion in vegetable oil until soft.
3. Combine onion, remaining oil, rice, salt and pepper and allow to cool so that it can be handled.

Stage 3: Rolling, rolling, rolling.....

1. Place a spoonful of rice on each leaf, and roll.Tuck in the side edges as you go.

2. Place into a roasting pan that has been sprayed with vegetable spray and lined with remaining leaves that were too small to use for rolling or with the outer leaves that were removed earlier. (If no leaves are available, not to worry!)
3. Salt and pepper each layer.
4. Dilute 2 cans of tomato soup with 1-1/2 cans of water, mix well, and pour over the cabbage rolls.
5. Cover with foil or remaining leaves and roaster lid and bake for 3 hours at 325°. Check to make sure cabbage is done, and increase cooking time if necessary.

Alas, they were gone too quickly and I neglected to get a picture of the cabbage rolls once cooked.

I'm told that I can save a lot of hassle preparing the leaves if I freeze the head of cabbage, and thaw before rolling. Then I can eliminate the steaming step. I have not tried this, but I will for the next time. It will certainly make the preparation a much quicker process!

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