There are several ingredients seemingly indigenous to Hungarian cuisine that are among my favorites. I love the flavor of paprika, adore sour cream and dill, and think caraway is fabulous. So when I can prepare a dish that contains all of these favorites, I know I am going to be in culinary heaven.
So when I decided I wanted to update my 40 year old recipe for stuffed cabbage rolls, I kept each of these ingredients in mind as I concocted my new version of this Hungarian classic.
While I was at it, I also wanted my cabbage rolls to be low in fat and reasonably easy to prepare. And to be made with fairly inexpensive ingredients. I also wanted a dish that even people like my husband, who are not as fond of cruciferous vegetables as I am, to be able to enjoy the dish and even look forward to eating it again.
So this recipe is my take on Töltött káposzta. And for all of you out there who have lovely Hungarian grandmothers who would be deeply offended by my use of sour cream in the sauce rather than as just a garnishment, who would not be caught dead not including sauerkraut or smoked pork shank in their version, I humbly offer my apologies. But as in all things, it’s really just all about me. And of course, what can you expect from a person who has only French and German blood running through her veins? Remember: not everyone is lucky or smart enough to be born with a Hungarian grandmother. (Next time around, I will be smart enough to get my request in early for an Italian mother and a Hungarian father. Or visa/versa would be fine too.)
If you need more apology than the aforesaid, please ask your grandmother to contact me personally! Speaking of which, don’t hesitate to “leave a reply” if you like a recipe or want to share some insight into the recipe with me. If your comment is not too derogatory, I will gladly add your comment to the blog for all the world to see. Thanks and I hope you enjoy this recipe. Oh, and also – Happy Spring! Yea sunshine!
- 1 small head green cabbage
- ¼ c. long grain rice
- 1 c. water
- 1 T. vegetable oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- ½ tsp. marjoram
- ½ tsp. caraway seeds
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 3 T. sweet Hungarian paprika, divided (and yes, use real Hungarian paprika)
- 2 eggs
- 1 lb. ground pork*
- 1 lb. ground beef*
- 1 small can (14-oz.) chopped skinless tomatoes plus juice (canned Italian tomatoes are the best)
- 1 c. sour cream, plus more for passing at the table
- fresh dill weed, garnish, opt.
Remove core from cabbage with a paring knife. Place whole head in a large pot filled with boiling, salted water. Reduce heat and simmer the cabbage until leaves are softened enough to pull off individually. Then using a pair of tongs, gently remove the leaves as they become tender and set aside to drain/cool. (Don’t worry if you tear a leaf. It will mend during the baking process. Well, it won’t really mend, but once anyone takes a bite, believe me, no one will notice any tiny presentation imperfections!) Save the cabbage water for use later on in the recipe.
Meanwhile place the rice and 1 cup of water in a small covered pan and bring to a boil. Stir, reduce heat, and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, remove lid, and set aside to cool. (If you have leftover rice, by all means use it.)
While the cabbage leaves cool, place the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and gently sauté for about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Remove pan from heat and set aside to cool. When cooled, add the marjoram, caraway seeds, salt, pepper, 1 tablespoon of the Hungarian paprika, and the eggs. Mix thoroughly. Add the partially cooked rice, ground meat, and combine just until the spice/onion mixture is evenly distributed throughout the meat. (Clean hands are your best tool for this process. Note: take your rings off first!) Place a handful of the meat mixture inside each cabbage leaf and wrap up like a burrito. Place folded side down in a lightly greased deep sided casserole or baking dish.
In the empty frying pan (I hate to make more dishes dirty than necessary), whisk together the tomatoes, remaining 2 tablespoons of paprika, 1 cup sour cream, salt and pepper to taste, and 1 cup of the reserved cabbage cooking water. Pour over the cabbage rolls and tightly cover the pan with foil. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 90 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 45-60 minutes or until the sauce is almost gone. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes before serving with a nice rustic bread, baked Yukon gold potatoes or garlic mashed potatoes, and additional sour cream and fresh dill as garnishes.
*If you want to use another pound of ground beef instead of ground pork – go for it. You could also substitute ground chicken or turkey with wonderful results.