Cabbage rolls in tomato sauce is a carnivore’s favorite, a lightly spiced ground beef/pork filling with garlic, onion, and rice topped with a tomato sauce. It’s a comforting dish before winter comes our way (for northern hemisphere guys). It a popular dish throughout Central-East Europe up to Asian. Although they have many different variations from place to place, some are made with a side of sour cream other with savoy cabbage, etc. This version is closer to the Polish version called Gołąbki which is a mix of beef and pork filling and cook in the oven with a tomato sauce. The only difference is; I’ve made an Italian flavor twist to it and add some more garlic and thyme to the dish with a touch of cumin powder and pepper in the meat filling.
It’s a fairly simple recipe but on the other hand it’s got a long preparation. Resulting into a sunday fest more than an everyday meal. Although once you do a bunch of those rolls, you’ll have great leftovers, plus they get even better the next day with all the flavors mixing setting in overnight. The process is quite long because you’ll need to boil and separate the cabbage leaves, then roll them up, make the sauce and then cook in the oven for an hour. But if you like to take your time, even the kiddos could help to roll some of those meat treat up. As they say: Good things come to those who wait and this is no exception.
So let’s make those meaty cabbage rolls!
Cabbage rolls in tomato sauce
Makes about 15 rolls (2 per person)
800kg of ground beef-pork
1 white cabbage
1 cup of precooked rice
1 onion finely chopped
3 garlic cloves finely chopped (1 for the meat and 2 for the tomato sauce)
100ml of chicken broth
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp cumin powder
salt and pepper
Start by cutting out the stem of the white cabbage and take the first “dirty”leaves off
Cook the cabbage in a big pot of salty, boiling water for 10 minutes (be careful and calculate the water amount before it boils… not to overflow the boiling water over yourself. Test in cold water before)
With the help of kitchen tongs take the outside leave from the cabbage one by one as they get loose while the boiling step and let them cool
Cook the white rice
Cut the onion, garlic and mix into the grounded meat, rice, onion, 1 garlic clove, cumin, salt and pepper
Cut of the thicker part of the stem from each cabbage leaves (makes it easy to roll)
Make a cylinder form with the meat mixture
Add the meat to the cabbage leaf lower end and roll them up (roll the sides in at first)
Add each roll to a large and deep enough oven proof recipient
Blend the tomato, 2 garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and pour over the rolls (or tomato sauce can)
Add the broth, salt and pepper
Cook at 180°C (350F) for an hour, covered with aluminium foil
Blueberry pork cheek on a vinegar braised cabbage bed is such a long title for such a simple dish. The inspiration here was a concoction I found in “Tigidou” store on the Orleans Island by Quebec city; a blueberry maple concoction. I’ve build the dish around this delicious concoction.
Pork cheeks are such a tasty part and so tender when cooked for a while at low temperature. They are always juicy and filled with flavors and so easy to make. The problem is to find them in the store, so whether you know a kind butcher that doesn’t keep those gems to himself or are lucky enough to know a store where to get those low priced cuts.The cheeks are relatively a small amount of meat, so I suggest to calculate 2 cheeks per person for the house’s carnivores. If your butcher is asking you with or without the bone, I suggest to keep the bone, first; it helps give flavour to the sauce, second it comes right off at the end of coccion, third it helps to keep the piece of meat in a way better shape, but that last one is purely esthetic.
As for the cabbage, I’ve done a braised in cider vinegar white cabbage with a few caraway seeds to accompany the pork. The vinegar will caramelize the cabbage and give it a richer bite. I’m always searching ways to cut on carbs, so this way, you get plenty of cabbage to fill you up without an ounce of carbs in sight. Often those alternatives to gluten or carbs elements are too light and you end up not feeling satisfied in the end of the meal, but with this cabbage, you’ll be content after diner.
So let’s cook this gluten free / low carb dish!
Blueberry pork cheek on a vinegar braised cabbage bed
Makes 4 portions
The braised cheeks
calculate 1 to 2 pork cheeks per person
750ml of chicken broth
3 tbsp of olive oil
1 laurel leave
salt and pepper
The blueberry concoction
50ml of maple syrup
The braised cabbage
1 white cabbage finely sliced
1 garlic clove chopped
100ml of chicken broth
50ml of cider vinegar
1 tsp of caraway seeds
salt and pepper
Start by having some salt and pepper to the cheeks
Add the olive oil to a deep enough skillet and sear the cheeks on both side, high heat
Add the broth until the pork pieces are almost covert and bring to simmer
Add the aromatics; laurel leave, pepper
Let simmer gently for 2 hours, at low heat, turn them and scratch the bottom with a wooden spatula once in a while
30 minutes before the end of the cheeks coccion, start the braised cabbage, cook the onion, at medium-high heat in the butter until soften, about 5 minutes
Add the garlic and the cabbage, the broth, the vinegar and the caraway seeds,
Let cook at medium high heat, covered, until soften for 15 minutes
Add the salt and pepper
Let the liquid evaporate completely and caramelize lightly the cabbage, reserve
Take out the cheeks from the broth, reserve with the warm cabbage, keep warm or covered
Pass the leftover from the cheeks broth through a sieve and back on high heat to reduce until it covers lightly the back of a spoon, the larger the pan the faster it will be (about 5 minutes)
Make the blueberry concoction by mixing the blueberries, the maple syrup and a touch of salt
Take off the bones from the cheeks if any, it should come right off
Serve the cheeks on a bed of the braised cabbage, add the sauce reduction and top with the blueberry concoction.