Saturday, March 10, 2012

Wolfgang Puck: Stuffed Cabbage Leaves with Paprika Tomato Sauce

What do you do with a leftover cabbage from your CSA box?  You don't want to let it rot, but that's a LOT of cabbage.  Especially when you already had to deal with another head.  My first thought was to find some sort of recipe for stuffed cabbage.  That would use up the leaves pretty successfully.  Only problem?  I had never made it before.

I went on my usual internet search, and I seemed to find two schools of thought when it came to stuffed cabbage.  One type of recipe usually incorporated raisins or something similar into the filling and then finished with a sweet and sour type of sauce.  The other type of recipe omitted any sweet ingredients from the filling and went straight tomato for the sauce.  Since I'm not a big fan of raisins, I went the non-sweet route.

I finally found a recipe I liked on Food Network's website which was attributed to Wolfgang Puck.  However, I did not like the idea of using bread as a filler instead of rice.  I know, I know, I'm awfully opinionated about something I've never made before.  But I wanted rice.  So instead of bread and milk, I cooked up some white rice and used it instead.

The filling came together pretty easily, but it was time consuming to dip a couple of leaves at a time into the boiling water to soften, and then fill and roll.  This is slow cooking, people.  SLOW.  After I got all of my leaves rolled up, I made the sauce they would swim in.  It's a basic tomato sauce, but it gets a little Austro-Hungarian twist with paprika.

The result was everything I wanted.  Savory tender center, complex tomato sauce.  You almost didn't even need anything on the side.  It's like the perfect one dish meal.

Stuffed Cabbage Leaves with Paprika Tomato Sauce
From Wolfgang Puck

Stuffed Cabbage Leaves:
9 slices white bread, crusts removed, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 cup milk
1½ pounds ground meat of your choice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon sugar
1½ tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 large cabbage leaves, preferably Savoy cabbage

Paprika Tomato Sauce:
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 teaspoons sweet paprika
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup prepared tomato sauce or 1 cup diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
4 leaves fresh sage or 4 sprigs thyme
Freshly ground black pepper

First, make the filling for the Stuffed Cabbage Leaves: Put the bread cubes in a small mixing bowl, add the milk, and leave the bread to soak until it is completely saturated. With your hands, squeeze out the excess milk. Discard the milk and add the soaked bread to a large mixing bowl with the meat, parsley, sage, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper. Mix well, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and prepare a large bowl full of ice water. Add the cabbage leaves to the pot and blanch them in the boiling water just until they are slightly wilted, about 1 minute; drain them and immediately transfer the leaves to the ice water. When the leaves are cold, remove them from the water and pat them dry.

With a small, sharp knife, cut the thick part of the stem from each cabbage leaf. Place a heaping ½ cup of the filling in the center of each cabbage leaf. Fold the sides of the leaf over the filling, overlapping them slightly, and then, starting at the stem end, roll up the leaf into a compact bundle. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Meanwhile, make the sauce: Heat a large heatproof saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, onion, and garlic and saute until the vegetables are translucent. Add the tomato paste and paprika and saute briefly. Then, stir in the chicken stock, tomato sauce, balsamic vinegar, sugar, and sage. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Arrange the stuffed cabbage leaves neatly in a single layer in the saucepan. Bring the sauce back to a boil. Transfer the pan to the preheated oven and bake until the bundles are cooked through and firm to the touch, 25 to 30 minutes.

To serve, use a large spoon to transfer the rolls to a platter or individual heated plates. Spoon the sauce over and around them.

Makes 4 servings

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