Stuffed Cabbage with a Tomato Cream Sauce
I felt like a home-y Russian dinner yesterday, preferably one that would extend in leftovers into the next day, so I decided on Golubtzi, or stuffed cabbage. These have an interesting reputation. I would say they even have a bad rep with some people I know! I was a picky eater as a child, and I loved these then as I do now, so I am not sure where all the hate comes from. Yes, cabbage is stinky when cooked. However, when cooked right, it takes on a sweet and mellow. That's a great combination with the sweet and sour tomato cream base it rests on.
1/2 lb of ground turkey
1/2 lb of ground beef (80% lean)
1 cup of rice (measure before cooking)
fennel and dill seed
Cook the rice in 2 cups of water until about half way done. Drain and let cool. Mix all the ingredients together.
1 cabbage, core removed
In a pasta pot (for easy draining) boil water until boiling and add salt. Slowly lower in the whole cabbage, sans the core. Cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Let cool and slowly peel off the leaves, one by one. They should be pliable. The closer to the core you get the less pliable they'll be. If necessary, repeat the boiling process to soften the leaves some more. Some cooks don't boil the cabbage at all. Instead they put the whole head into the freezer for 24 hours and then thaw the cabbage. This achieve the same pliable texture, however something about the post-freezer cabbage (and most other vegetables) doesn't appeal to me.
Cut each leaf in half, removing the center "vein" (thick part). Place a small amount of stuffing in the center of the precut leaf, fold over the sides onto the stuffing and roll to form a cigar like package. Line a ceramic or glass baking sheet with made "cigars" so that they fit very tightly.
The baking process
1 tbsp sugar
About 1 cup of salted tomato juice
Mix the two ingredients and pour over the tightly packed stuffed cabbage rolls. Cover with foil and bake for 50 minutes to an hour at 375F. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 7 minutes, just so the tops get color but the liquid doesn't dry out.
Tomato Cream Sauce
1/2 cup tomato juice
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 tbsp heavy cream
Mix the tomato juice with sugar to dissolve. Add the tomato paste and cream, mix until of smooth consistency. Season with salt to taste. This sauce is meant to be cool or at room temperature and can be made ahead.