When I started hearing about Coronavirus heating up about a week ago, I started planning for what foods I wanted to have on hand to weather what was to come. A long time foodie, I’m always meal planning and meal prepping. The thought of (potentially) not having access to grocery stores made me a little bit nervous, if I’m honest.
As I was thinking about what I would stock up on, the idea of a worldwide pandemic only brought one idea to mind. It was the same meal I made on 9/11, coming home to my little apartment outside of Nashville. It’s the go-to in our family for holidays, and it’s hearty, carby, and like a hug.
Yes, Cabbage Rolls.
Now, there are a MILLION ways to make these bad boys. I’ve heard of people making them with a cream sauce. Some like to make them with tomato soup. In my family, the only way to make cabbage rolls is with tomato juice and using a million bowls. You’ll make the biggest mess ever, but it’s totally worth it when these delicious things are in a bowl.
Over the years (and much to my mom’s skepticism), I’ve modified the recipe to make it a little healthier. I’ve sometimes used turkey instead of beef, and swapped the traditional white rice for brown. I’ve even thought about blending a little cauliflower rice in with the rice… but all that cabbage + cauliflower might be a little much on the stomach. One day, I’ll give it a go. For now though, I wanted to make the OG (with a few minor tested and true swaps.)
And if I do say so myself, this Coronavirus batch is one of the best I’ve ever made.
If you’re looking for something to do in the weeks ahead and have access to pick up the ingredients. This will be a project. This will take some time. This will be interesting. The end result: AMAZING.
Homemade Cabbage Rolls | No Thanks to Cake
This recipe is full of simple ingredients and delivers big flavor. It was always on the table around the holidays in our home growing up. A throwback to generations past, my mom taught me how to make these, and they always end up on my table when the world seems unstable.
- 1 lb. lean ground beef
- 1 large head cabbage
- 1 lb. brown rice, long grain
- 1 can sauerkraut, 14 oz.
- 1 bottle tomato juice, 42 oz.
- 1 lb. turkey kielbasa
- 1 Tbsp. canola oil
Place a large pot of salted water on the stove at medium heat. Looking at the bottom of your cabbage, cut the around the core of the cabbage head creating almost a square around the stem. This will allow your leaves to loosen up as the cabbage cooks. Place the entire head of cabbage in the pot and bring to a light boil. As the cabbage cooks, the leaves will fall away from the core. Use tongs to separate as needed. Once a leave has fallen away from the head and is tender, remove to a large bowl. Continue this process until you have many leaves available. You may need to cut additional leaves off the stem to loosen them as the cabbage head becomes smaller. When you only have a tiny bit of cabbage left, remove that as well.
In a skillet at medium heat, add 1 Tbsp. olive oil, onion, and rice. Add salt and pepper to the mixture (slightly generous as this will season the entire dish later.) Cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring often to brown the rice at the same time as you cook the onions. Remove the mixture to a large bowl to cool.
Slice your kielbasa, and place in a bowl.
In a small colander, drain and rinse your sauerkraut squeezing out the excess liquid.
Combine your beef/turkey with the rice/onion mixture in the bowl. Make sure that it is well combined, as this will be your filling.
Now, the fun part: wrapping each leaf into a roll. You’ll likely have 12-15 cabbage leaves from one head of cabbage. Starting with the largest outer leaves, place a small amount of the meat-rice mixture on the center edge of the cabbage. Much like rolling a burrito, fold one edge in and roll to the end. Simply stuff the remaining open end into the formed roll to close the second side.
Place each completed roll seam side down in a large dutch oven. When you have one layer of cabbage rolls in the pot, top with half of the sausage and sauerkraut. Top generously with tomato juice.
Create the next layer following the same technique. With any remaining cabbage leaves that are too small to roll with the mixture, chop that cabbage and place it on the next layer of cabbage rolls. Top with the remaining sauerkraut and kielbasa. Fill the pot with the remaining tomato juice.
Place the pot on the stove on low heat. Once simmering, cover and cook for 3.5-4 hours until the cabbage rolls are done. You’ll know they’re done by testing one of the top rolls. The rice should be tender, cooked all the way through.
Serve and enjoy. Season with salt and pepper, if needed.