This do-ahead dish will make it easy for you to serve quite a few guests with little fuss. You do have some preparing ahead to get things ready, but this is easy and delicious to serve up after cooking in the oven.
Re-visiting these kinds of dishes from days gone by is fun and keeps it interesting for your guests. This has always been a crowd pleaser, even for those who say they don’t like cabbage – they wind up eating it anyway, or just peel the thin layer of cabbage off.
Do not use large cabbage with big loose dark green leaves – they are tough. Use the outer leaves of smaller (tight) cabbages and reserve the center to chop and use in another dish or soup. Use 2 cabbages if they are small.
This recipe calls for using 2 different kinds of tomato products. What you really need is some juice, to absorb with the meat and rice, and then some chunkier tomato pieces to blend in with the dish. I prefer to use 2 cans of San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes. Then I use the liquid right into the pot, and crush each of the whole tomatoes with my hand.
- 1 medium (or 2 small) cabbage – yield about 16 outer leaves
- 1 pound uncooked lean ground beef
- 1 pound uncooked ground turkey
- 3/4 cup uncooked white (or brown) rice
- 1 cup chicken stock (or water)
- 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
- 1 large (or 2 medium) carrot, grated
- 2 medium onions finely chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 Tbsp. garlic powder (or several cloves of garlic, minced)
- 2 large eggs (or about 1/3 cup egg beaters)
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 1 29oz. can diced, stewed or whole tomatoes – crushed with hand
- 1 29oz. can crushed tomato or tomato puree
- Water for boiling cabbage
- 1 Tbsp. salt (to salt the cabbage boiling water)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Depending on the size of your cabbage(s), select a sauce pan that will just hold the whole head. With the cabbage in the pot, fill it with water to just under 1 inch from the top. Remove cabbage and bring the pot of water to boil. When the water is boiling, add 1 Tbsp. salt. In the stem of the cabbage, plunge in a large serving fork, sharp knife or metal skewer to use as a handle.
Holding onto the “handle” that you just created, lower the cabbage into the boiling water for about 30 to 45 seconds until the outer leaf or two becomes pliable. Remove the head of cabbage from the water and peel off the outer leaves that you softened (I like to have a sheet pan right beside the pot on the stove for this). Put the head back into the water and continue repeating until you have peeled off the larger leaves. Stop taking leaves off the head when they are no longer as large as the palm of your hand. Set aside.
Combine the beef, turkey, rice, stock (or water), breadcrumbs, carrot, onion, parsley, garlic, eggs, salt and pepper in a large bowl; mix well. You can also use a blender or food processor to combine and chop everything but the meat and rice, forming a slurry, and then pour the slurry over the meat & rice.
Using an ice cream scoop, fill the center of each cabbage leaf with the meat mixture. Fold in the bottom, sides, then top of each leaf, wrapping the leaf completely around the meat to form a neat little package. The rice will expand when cooking, so don’t make the rolls too tight.
In the bottom of a heavy pot, such as a Dutch oven, drizzle some olive oil and then a couple of spoonful’s of each of the tomato products to form a base (or pour a little liquid off and crush up a couple of the canned whole tomatoes with your hand). Line up cabbage rolls side by side on top of the tomato base layer, but don’t crowd the pan too tightly to allow for expansion. You will probably have to stack 2 layers.
Pour remaining tomato products over the cabbage rolls. Bring the pot to a simmer on the stove, then transfer to a 350 oven, covered. Cook for 1 hour, then uncover and cook for another 30 minutes; remove from oven.
IMPORTANT: it may look like there is too much liquid in the pot when you remove from the oven, but you MUST let the rolls rest in the liquid and they will re-absorb most of the liquid within 10 to 15 minutes – then you can serve.
Serves 8 people, 2 rolls each. NOTE: this is a “friendly” recipe on the Weight Watchers point system by using lean meats, fresh veggies, very little fat or oil.