CABBAGE CASSEROLE WITH MEATBALLS (LAZY COOK CABBAGE ROLLS)

Once again it’s Oktoberfest time in the city. And most years when we host a JazzVox concert in September, I serve a German themed meal before the concert. Well, this year is no different. Except this year I am expanding my geographic area to include food from some of the neighboring countries. After all, they celebrate Oktoberfest too. I mean really. Who doesn’t like a big old party featuring beer, rich food, and 16-18 days of revelry? Not we Washingtonians, that’s for darned sure. We have Leavenworth, which prides itself on celebrating Oktoberfest 365 days a year! Take that Munich! (Munich may host more than 6 million people each year for the 16-18 days, but our very own Leavenworth has endurance, 365 days a year, and that counts for something!) But back to this recipe.

I love cabbage rolls. But cabbage rolls for 30 some people – I think not! Just the thought of removing the core of several cabbages, boiling the cabbages until the leaves are softened enough to pull off individually, then gently removing the leaves as they become tender and setting them aside to drain and cool seemed like just too onerous a task. (Yah think!) So I decided to simplify the process so that I could still serve cabbage and savory meat to my guests, while at the same time avoiding a trip to our local hospital for exhaustion or a home for elderly nitwits who have delusions of being able to work like they were still in their thirties!

Now if you have already perused this recipe, you know there is still an average amount of work involved in preparing this dish. I simply couldn’t deprive you of the wonderful meat filling that is the reason for cabbage rolls in the first place. (The cabbage is really just there to justify all the time and energy you put into growing the darn things in the first place.) But please note, the Meatballs don’t take all that much time to prepare, and the Sauce and Topping are only about 3 minute tasks.

So get into the September spirit and fix this casserole for your family and friends before winter sets in. And if you’re interested, I posted my menu for this coming Sunday at the bottom of this post. (Guests attending the concert – no fair peeking!)

Cabbage Base:

  • ½ medium-large green cabbage (about 1 lb.), cored and cut into ¾-inch strips
  • ½ yellow onion, chopped, divided
  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T. chicken or vegetable stock
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • crushed red pepper flakes

Place the cabbage pieces in a lightly greased 9×13-inch gratin or baking dish. Scatter the cabbage with half of the chopped onion. Drizzle veggies with the olive oil and stock. Lightly sprinkle with kosher salt, pepper, and a scant amount of crushed red pepper flakes. Cover tightly with foil or lid, and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 1 hour. While the cabbage bakes, prepare the meatballs, sauce, and topping.

Meatballs:

  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tsp. Hungarian paprika, divided
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 can (14-oz.) diced tomatoes plus juice (canned Italian tomatoes are the best), divided
  • 1 egg
  • ½ c. cooked rice (white or brown)
  • ½ lb. lean ground beef
  • ½ lb. ground chicken
  • 1 T. minced fresh parsley

Heat the vegetable oil in a small frying pan. Add the remaining half onion and gently fry until softened. Add the garlic and sauté for one minute. Transfer the onion and garlic to a medium sized mixing bowl. Whisk in 1½ teaspoons of the paprika, cloves, salt, pepper, 1/3 cup of the diced tomatoes, and the egg. Gently stir in the cooked rice, ground beef, ground chicken, and parsley. Using a good sized ice cream scoop, form balls and lay them in a single layer on a sheet of waxed paper. Set aside. (I get 11 meatballs when I use my #16, 2-inch diameter scoop.) For information on ice cream/portion scoops, see The Real Scoop at bottom of post.

Note: You can use all ground beef or all ground chicken in the meatballs. I use both because I like the combination in these meatballs.

Sauce:

  • 1½ c. sour cream, divided
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the remainder of the can of diced tomatoes, remaining 1½ teaspoons paprika, ½ cup of the sour cream, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

Topping/Garnish:

  • 1 T. chopped fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried dill weed (fresh is always best)
  • pinch of kosher salt

Combine the remaining 1 cup sour cream with the dill and salt. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Assembly:
When the cabbage has baked for one hour, remove from oven. Turn the oven heat up to 375 degrees. Carefully remove the aluminum foil (there will be steam) and set aside. Lay the meatballs in a single layer over the braised cabbage. Pour the sauce over the meatballs. Tightly cover with the saved aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil (again being very careful), raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees and change to convection (if you have a convection oven, that is). Continue to bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the meatballs are fully cooked and the sauce is almost gone. Remove from oven and let rest for 5-7 minutes before serving. Pass the sour cream and dill topping.

The Real Scoop:

To get uniform sized portions, be it cookie dough, meatballs, ice cream, etc., the most reliable method is to use a portion scoop.

Portion scoops, commonly referred to as “ice cream scoops”, are standard-sized scoops used to measure out food, both cooked and uncooked. They have a spring release that scrapes your food/ice cream/cookie dough, etc. out of the scoop as the handle is squeezed. The interesting thing about portion scoops is that they come in strange sizes. For example, a #16 has a 2-inch diameter which is perfect for the meatballs in this recipe and for scooping out muffin or cupcake dough. Many cookie recipes direct you to roll the cookie dough in a 1-inch ball or a rounded tablespoon. That would be a #100.

In addition to the 2 scoops listed above, I routinely use a #60 (1¼-inch diameter) for medium sized cookies, meatballs, etc., and a #40 (1 5/8-inch diameter) for larger cookies or portions.

The number on the scoop basically represents how many “scoops” it would take to fill a quart sized container. Therefore, the larger the number, the smaller the scoop. For practical application however, picking out the right scoop for your needs is as simple as going to a good kitchen shop. Then choosing scoops based on the size of the cookies or whatever else you plan to portion out. The time saved in not having to hand roll cookie dough, all by itself, is well worth the money spent on the scoop. (Oh – for just one nickel for every cookie I’ve ever baked. I would probably be able to buy us round trip tickets to Portland, or to some other fascinating destination.)

2017 JazzVox Oktoberfest Menu:

Appetizers – Viennese Liptauer (recipe on site), cornichons, and 3 types of cheese

Main Dish – Cabbage Casserole with Meatballs

Side – Roasted Garlic, Buttermilk, and Fresh Chive Mashed Potatoes (recipe coming)

Salad – Cucumber and Red Onion Salad (recipe on site)

Bread – Overnight Rye Beer Bread (never made it before, so it may or may not appear on this site)

Dessert – Berry Pie Bars with Cinnamon Whipped Cream (recipe on site)

 

 

 

 

 

Please let me know if you like this recipe. Thanks