For as long as I can remember, Nan was known in our family for her stuffed cabbage rolls.
In fact, she learned how to make them from my grandfather (pop) when he was a young man working and living in Toronto with his friend’s family, who was Polish.
When I tried to get Nan’s recipe, I had to question some of the things she was telling me (or not telling me, LOL). I’m teasing you, I’m teasing you 😛
Have you ever watched Everybody Loves Raymond? There’s an episode where Debra receives her mother-in-law’s recipe for meatballs, but they don’t quite have the same result because her mother-in-law has secretly (and very intentionally) omitted an ingredient.
Nan laughed when I teased her about it, but I think she’s proud of the way it happened.
1 cup of BAKED long grain rice (or a similar variety)
1.5 pounds of lean ground beef (or “extra-lean”)
1.5 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 large egg
1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
⅓ cup parsley, coarsely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1.5 teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon dried dill
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ to 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (optional)
42 ounces of tomato sauce, divided into three 398 millilitre cans or 14 ounce cans (about 5 cups). See point 5 below in the “Notes” of the recipe).
1 medium-headed kale (about 18 leaves are needed for the rolls and about 8 to 10 more for the bottom and top).
½ cup water (boiling cabbage leftover)
fresh dill, chopped (garnish, optional)
Cook rice according to package instructions and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit at this stage as well.
In a large bowl, mix the ground beef with Worcestershire sauce, egg, cooked rice, onion, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, dill, onion powder, red pepper flakes (if using) and ½ cup of tomato sauce. Mix until smooth.
In a large pot of boiling water, add the cabbage and boil for 8 to 10 minutes (turn carefully halfway through). Carefully remove. Do not throw away the water, as you will need to boil the cabbage again when you start to remove the leaves and you will need some of the water for your sauce.
Note: Do not fill the pan to the end as the cabbage will displace some of the water. Before boiling the water, test the amount of water displaced by placing the head of the cabbage in the pot.
Once the cabbage is cold enough to handle, carefully remove the leaves and cut off the cores from each leaf. Once you start removing the leaves, you will probably have to put the cabbage back into boiling water (to soften more leaves). Boil a little more, let it cool down enough to handle and continue removing the leaves.
Place a few cabbage leaves in the bottom of a deep baking dish 9″ x 13″ or roasting pan. Taking one leaf at a time, dispense about ¼ cup of ground meat mixture on top and wrap (fold sides and roll up, place in prepared dish, seam side down. Continue with remaining ground beef/leaf mixture.
Mix remaining tomato sauce with approximately ½ cup cabbage water. Whisk to blend in. Pour over top of cabbage rolls.
Note: You can add about one tablespoon of white or brown sugar to the tomato sauce if you want one less bite of tomato. I like the brightness of tomatoes, so I’ll pass.
Cover with more cabbage leaves. Cover the casserole well with aluminum foil. Cover and bake for about 2 hours and 15 minutes to 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Once cooked, be careful when removing the foil as steam will be generated. Discard the cabbage leaves from the top. Let cool for about 20 minutes before digging. Garnish, if desired. Enjoy!