Remember cabbage rolls? Lovely little packets of paprika spiced meat and rice, rolled into a cabbage leaf, and covered in cheese. What a perfect warming winter entree! The recipe I’m sharing with you this month is an easier (but still delicious) version. If you have the time and inclination to make the original version, please do channel your inner 50’s housewife, put on your best frilly apron, cue up a few Elvis or Buddy Holly songs on the stereo, and get to work. I myself lack the patience for this task, which is why I like this knock off version so much. Same flavor, less work. Dig it?
All told, this took me about 3 hours to make, but that includes time to cook the rice. You can do this step a day or two ahead (in fact, according to this book I just read by Giulia Enders, cooking, then cooling rice before you eat it adds to it’s nutritional value). For the cabbage, I tried both stir frying and steaming it, and had the best success (slightly charred, and still a little crunchy) with a quick stir fry over high heat. Smoked paprika, which adds an extra dimension, is my secret ingredient. If you don’t have this on hand, traditional paprika will do just fine.
I use bacon fat or butter for high heat cooking, and save my good olive oil for salads. If you’d like to know more about why I believe butter is a health food please contact me. I love nothing more that talking about, and sharing good food! You will need a sharp knife, two large pans, a casserole dish (I used an oval corning ware dish about 3 inches deep) and a rice cooker, or large pot with a lid. Try this recipe and let me know what you think.
Cabbage Roll Casserole
- 4 Tbsp bacon fat or butter (plus a little more to grease the casserole)
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 lb ground beef or ground bison
- pinch of salt and pepper
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 15 oz can tomato sauce
- 2 cups of brown rice, cooked
- 1 large head of green cabbage, coarsely chopped
- 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- Heat 2 Tbsp fat in a deep skillet or large pot. Saute the onion over medium heat, just until softened (3-4 minutes), then add garlic and cook one minute more.
- Turn the heat up to high, add the ground beef to the onions and garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook until browned, breaking up any meat chunks with a spoon.
- Stir in spices, Worcestershire, sugar, and vinegar and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add diced tomatoes and tomato sauce and simmer for about 15 minutes (add a splash of water if it gets too thick).
- While the meat mixture is cooking, pre-heat the oven to 350, and generously grease your casserole dish.
- In a separate large, deep, skillet (or wok) heat 2 Tbsp of fat over medium high heat. Add cabbage, and salt and pepper, and saute, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes. You want it just wilted a bit, but still crunchy.
- Place half of the cabbage into the prepared casserole dish, and press down gently. Now spread half the meat mixture on the cabbage. Repeat cabbage, then meat.
- Wrap tightly with foil and bake for about 40 minutes.
- Remove the foil and sprinkle the cheese over the top. Bake for another 10 – 15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and slightly browned. You can also turn on the broiler for a minute or two to brown the top, but watch it like a hawk so it doesn’t burn.