Mama Goose’s Golubtsy
After tasting the stuffed cabbage rolls at Sammy’s Roumanian Steak House, Jen and I had been craving this dish at home. This dish is common in many ethnic cuisines of Europe and Asia, and consists of cooked cabbage leaves wrapped around a variety of fillings. In Europe, the dish traditionally uses meat as a filling and grains such as rice are often uses. In Asia, seafood, tofu, and mushrooms are common filling ingredients.
Golubtsy, or more simply, stuffed cabbage, are a staple of Russian Cuisine. They have all the main ingredients of any Russian meal — meat, cabbage and sour cream. Lots of sour cream. I’ve been meaning to make more Russian food, because it’s just so hearty, but Jen and I always get side tracked by random dishes we find online or in cook books. But I finally committed myself to making this, called my mom and got her age-tested recipe. It was actually not as daunting or time-consuming as I had expected, so this inspired me to make more of the dishes I grew up eating. So stay tuned for more dishes from me.
As with any mom recipe, the amounts and portions are more-or-less eye-balled and estimated. Everything can be adjusted to make the stuffed cabbage more or less meaty, more healthy (less sour cream), more or less flavorful, etc. The golubtsy can be eaten alone or as part of a Russian feast with Russian salad and chilled Holodnik Soup.
Mama Goose’s Golubtsy
Yields: at least 10 servings, depending on your hunger level
- 1 head of cabbage
- 2 lbs ground meat (I used a mix of pork, beef and veal. My mom uses turkey as well to be healthier)
- 1 tub of sour cream
- 2-3 cans of tomato sauce
- 1 cup of rice
- 1 white onion
- 1 large tomato
- 1 carrot
- 2 cloves garlic
- salt, pepper, spices to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add some salt, and throw in the head of cabbage. Cook the cabbage until you can easily take the leaves off the stalk, but do not let them overcook and start tearing. You have to essentially let the head of cabbage boil, cut off a few leaves, let it boil some more, and take off another few layers, until the entire head has been thoroughly cooked.
While the cabbage is taking its time to cook, throw a cup of rice (or more if you like rice) into a rice cooker, or boil it to cook it. Prepare your vegetables by dicing a tomato, grating a carrot into large pieces, and cut the onion into ringlets. Dice or press the cloves of garlic.
When the rice has been cooked, mix it in with the ground meat in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper and whatever herbs or seasonings you prefer. Mix everything together well. I think I added Italian Seasoning, Herbes de Provence and the like.
Once you have a stack of cabbage leaves and the meat mixture, start wrapping the leaves into little envelopes. Take a leaf and small tomato-sized chunk of the meat mix and put it on the cabbage leaf, then fold in the sides neatly.
Proceed with the wrapping until you are out of the meat mixture (it is ok to have some cabbage leaves left). If you have too much meat mix, then unwrap some of the other ones and add meat until you distribute it all. If a cabbage leaf is too small, you can also use too. Russian people care about eating food, and not necessarily the aesthetic of it.
Take a large, and more importantly, deep, sauce pan and coat the bottom with some tomato sauce, a couple of tablespoons of sour cream, and water (you don’t want the stuffed cabbage to burn at the bottom of the pan). Mix all of that thoroughly. Then add a bit of the diced vegetables (tomato, carrot, onion garlic) and some of the small leftover cabbage leaves if you have any. This should create a nice bottom base for the stuffed cabbages to rest on while cooking. Turn on the stove to medium heat.
Now start packing the stuffed cabbage leaves in compact layers. After you fill up the first layer, spoon some of the bottom mixture on top to coat the stuffed cabbage. Then add more tomato, sauce and sour cream and diced vegetables until you have packed the sauce pan.
Cook on medium heat for about 45 minutes, making sure that there is sauce covering all the stuffed cabbage leaves to get the maximum juiciness and flavor penetration.
Serve immediately, or feel free to let the pan simmer on low heat for another hour or so. The stuffed cabbage will just infuse more the of the flavors and become even juicier and tastier. I prefer to serve this dish with another spoonful of sour cream on the side, but if you are more health-conscious, then feel free to skip that step. The golubtsy can be eaten alone or as part of a Russian feast with Russian salad and chilled holodnik soup.