Stuffed Cabbage Rolls – A traditional romanian dish for the Holidays
There are no traditional romanian holidays such as Christmas or New Year without stuffed cabbage rolls. Stuffed cabbage rolls are traditionally a winter dish. Romanians do prepare for the winter in the fall, by canning cabbage for the holidays.
Canning cabbage makes what is traditionally known as sauerkraut, except that the cabbage is not sliced but canned as whole cabbages. In America it is more difficult to find unsliced sauerkraut, but you can buy the sliced/chopped version and use in combination with a regular fresh cabbage instead.
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls Recipe (Sarmale)
Cooking time: 2 – 2 1/2 hours (preparation: 1 – 1 1/2 hour; cooking: 45 minutes; baking: 15 minutes)
Makes: 12 servings
1.5 pounds ground meat (combined lean beef and pork)
3 tablespoons rice
1-2 slices of bread, soaked in water
2 sauerkraut cabbages (or 1 fresh cabbage and 1 quart jar of sauerkraut)
2 tablespoons olive oil
ground black pepper
tomato paste – a small can
Mix the ground meat with one finely chopped onion, the soaked and mashed bread, the washed rice, salt and ground black pepper. To obtain a more tender composition add 2-3 tablespoons of water in the mixture.
Wash and drain the sauerkraut cabbages. Squeeze them.
If a fresh cabbage is used, you need to separate the leaves for filling. To do this, bring to a boil a pot of water, and submerge the cabbage into the hot water for a about 20 – 30 seconds, then separate the outer leaf and cut the middle vein. Repeat until all the leaves are separated.
If a sauerkraut cabbage is used, then the leaves can be easily separated.
Fill each leave with the ground meat mixture and roll, tucking in the ends of the cabbage leaf. If the leaves are very big, you can cut them in half.
Finely chop the remaining of the sauerkraut. If you use fresh cabbage, chop the remaining of the fresh cabbage and add the chopped sauerkraut.
Put a layer of chopped cabbage on the bottom of a large nonstick pot and one layer of chopped onion. Add half can of tomato paste and the olive oil.
Arrange the stuffed cabbage rolls in layers. Add on top chopped onion, the remaining chopped cabbage and the remaining tomato paste.
Add water to cover everything. Season it with salt and peppercorns (black pepper).
Bring to a boil and than simmer at medium-low heat for about 45 minutes. Add water from time to time to keep the stuffed rolls covered to the top.
Preheat the oven at 375 F and put the pot in the oven for about 10-15 minutes.
The dish is better served the next day after baking.
Serve with sour cream on top. Traditionally, it can be served with polenta on the side.