Poor cabbage. It looks so unappealing in the grocery store sitting among its more beautiful, Artichoke, Red Pepper, and Asparagus pals. Transform this humble, economical, and versatile vegetable, into the belle of the ball.
FOR THE CABBAGE:
- 1 large cabbage
- The common varieties of cabbage that you’ll fine in your supermarket would be Green, Purple, Savoy, and Napa, but there are plenty more out there in the world. We used a standard Green Cabbage for this recipe.
FOR THE STUFFING:
- 2 pounds Ground Beef
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 large red onion, diced
- Nearly any onion/allium-family variety will work here, so don’t make a special trip to the store if you don’t have a red onion; Scallions, Shallots, white onion, yellow onion, etc. are all suitable.
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 28oz can of whole, peeled, tomatoes
- If you’re making this in summertime, and your garden is producing, use fresh tomatoes and fresh herbs.
- 1 cup dry/non-sweet red wine
- 1 cup shredded parmasean
- 1 cup chopped, fresh mozzarella
- Salt and Pepper
GET CHEFFY TIP!– The oregano, thyme, wine, and tomatoes/tomato paste are simply a starting point. Ground Beef is a chameleon, and can easily be taken in different, and unique directions. If you’re feeling inspired by the cuisine(s) of Mexico, add cumin, cinnamon, paprika, oregano, garlic, and chilis/chili powder. Inspired by the cuisine(s) of Asia?….replace the oregano/thyme/tomato combination with soy, hoisin, ginger, garlic, vinegar, honey, and Sriracha. The “Stuffed Cabbage Police” will not come and arrest you.
- Begin one day ahead, and take your whole cabbage, and pop it into the freezer. Take it out the morning you plan on making this dish and allow to thaw on a plate, at room temperature for at least 4 hours.
- In your largest pan, add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, your 2 pounds of ground beef, and turn your heat to high. Begin to break up the beef, with a large spoon or fork, while your beef cooks through. Brown the beef thoroughly, and continue to break apart any larger chunks until all of the beef is cooked through, 8-10 minutes. Drain off any excess fat, and lower your heat to low.
- Add your aromatics. The aromatics include your diced onion, oregano, and thyme. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoons of pepper, and stir all ingredients together to combine. Continue to cook on low until your onions have released their liquid, and have taken on a translucent quality around their edges. 5-10 minutes.
- Dried spices and herbs perform best when they’re allowed to “bloom” in the heat and fat/oil/butter of a pan; their flavor qualities have “gone dormant” and they need to be reconstituted and woken back up to be used to their full potential.
- Once your onions have released their liquid, and your pan is beginning to audibly sizzle again, add your tomato paste, and stir to coat your beef with the paste. Cook your paste for another 5 minutes until you see a notable color change in the tomato paste. It will change from a brighter, red color, to a rust/brown color. This deepens the flavor profile of the tomato paste, and adds another level of complexity to your stuffing.
- Add your garlic, and cook for 1-2 minutes.
- All aromatics will have been added at this point. Begin to deglaze your pan with your red wine. Add all of the wine to your pan, and stir to combine. Allow your wine to cook for 2-3 minutes to drive off the alcohol. Alcohol will evaporate at 180 degrees, so ensure that your pan heats back up again to eliminate the raw taste of alcohol.
- Add your 28oz can of whole, peeled tomatoes (we use Hunt’s), to your pan, along with their canning liquids. Using a potato masher, or fork, begin to break down your tomatoes into smaller pieces. Cook your tomatoes on low heat for 10-15 minutes periodically smashing, breaking apart the tomatoes as they heat through, and break down.
- A jar of marinara sauce can easily be substituted here but would impart additional flavorings of its own. Try this recipe both ways and don’t let us tell you how to live your life.
- After 10-15 minutes, you should have a reduced, concentrated, mixture, with little to no liquid. If your mixture is still watery, you’ll want to continue reducing until nearly all liquid has evaporated from the pan.
- Once most of our liquid has evaporated, taste your mixture for salt and pepper. Adjust as needed. Turn your burners off, and set your mixture aside to cool for 15-20 minutes. Ideally, your mixture would be close to room temperature when you begin to stuff, and shape your cabbage leaves.
- While your mixture cools, begin to gently pull apart your thawed cabbage leaves. Work gently, as they’ll be delicate from their defrosting. Take a large cutting board, and begin to line up and organize your cabbage leaves largest to smallest. If they tear, don’t discard them; simply double them up and stack them.
- Once your mixture has cooled, stir in your cup of shredded parmesan.
GET CHEFFY TIP!– Like the oregano and thyme, the parmesan is simply a starting point. Don’t have any parmesan in the fridge?….substitute cheddar, feta, colby, pepper-jack, gouda, emmenthal, provolone, american, swiss, gruyere, etc.; all be added to your mixture.
- Once your cabbage leaves are pulled apart and arranged, turn your oven to 450 with a rack in the upper/middle position.
- Take a large roasting pan (as we did), or large sheet tray, and add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to the bottom. Spread the oil with your hands, or a paper towel to work the oil into each corner of your pan. Cooking spray can also be used.
- Working with your first, and largest, cabbage leaf, take one to two large spoonfuls of your mixture, and place into the center of the leaf. This will be your guinea pig, so don’t be afraid. As you would roll a burrito, take your cabbage leaf and begin to roll the leaf over your filling. Generally, after you’ve brought the leaf up, and over your mixture, you’ll want to turn in the two sides, and continue rolling the leaf. This will help you lock in your mixture. Continue to roll the leaf, encasing the filling, until your seam-side is down.
- After completing your first stuffed leaf, pause, and ask yourself, “how did I do?”. Did I have too much filling? Too little filling? Did it all spill out the sides but I chickened out and kept rolling anyway in a mild panic? If this is your first time creating a dish like this, all of the above may apply to you. Unravel that first stuffed leave, plop the stuffing back into your mixture bow, and try again. After a few attempts, you’ll begin to refine your technique, and intuitively realize what works, and what doesn’t. Don’t be scared….the “Stuffed Cabbage Police” will not come and arrest you.
- After you’ve mastered the art of your first leaf, and you’re confidant in your technique, place your first stuffed cabbage leaf, seam side down, into your oiled roasting pan/sheet tray. Continue with your second largest cabbage leaf and stuff, roll, and place next to your first. Continue working with each leaf, in descending size order. You’ll notice that, about half way through, your leaves are getting smaller. At this point, double/triple them up, overlapping their edges, so their collective size is similar to the first leaf you stuffed. If you don’t like how one turns out, unravel it, trim any edges you need, rearrange the leaves, if need be, and try again. Don’t be afraid to get your hands messy….they will!!
- Once all of your leaves, and stuffing are used, dot the top of your stuffed cabbages with the mozzarella, or other cheese.
- Place your pan, or roasting tray into your oven, and cook at 450, until your cheese has melted, and the top begins to brown; 10-15 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.