Henny’s Stuffed Cabbage
The night we opened Frog in 1973, my mother prepared her delicious sweet and sour stuffed cabbage rolls as Frog’s debut special. Over the years they have become a staple on our Rosh Hashanah menu, but there is no reason to restrict these wonderful morsels to that holiday. One roll makes for a nice first course; two or three for a filling entrée. Sometimes we make thumb-sized versions and serve them as hors d’oeuvres.
do ahead Stuffed cabbage is best when made at least one day ahead and reheated before serving. It can also be stored in the freezer for up to one month. Defrost and reheat in a 325º oven.
1⁄3 cup cooked white rice
1 large head green cabbage
1⁄2 cup water
1 pound ground beef
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1⁄2 cup ketchup
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup sauerkraut
15-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1⁄2 cup light brown sugar
6 gingersnaps, crumbled
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon pepper
1⁄2 cup ketchup
1 Cut out the core of the cabbage and place in a pot. Nearly cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until leaves can be parted easily, about 5 minutes. Remove cabbage, drain and peel off softer leaves. If inner leaves are still stiff, return to water and repeat. Pat leaves dry.
2 Make the filling: crumble gingersnaps in water to form a paste. In a bowl, combine paste, rice, beef, salt, brown sugar and ketchup.
3 To form the cabbage rolls, lay a leaf flat on a clean surface. Place about 3 tablespoons of mixture in the center of each leaf. Fold the two sides over the filling and then roll tightly and set aside, seam side down. Repeat with remaining ingredients, reserving the smaller leaves for the sauce.
4 Preheat oven to 350º. Chop reserved small cabbage leaves and set aside. Rinse sauerkraut well, squeeze out water and set aside. Gently squeeze tomatoes to remove some juice, then tear tomatoes apart.
5 To make the sauce, heat oil in a deep sauté pan and add onion. Cook until onion begins to brown, about 10 minutes. Chop reserved cabbage, add to pan and continue cooking until nicely browned, about 5-10 minutes more. Mix in sauerkraut, tomatoes, brown sugar, gingersnaps, salt and pepper. Continue cooking slowly for 15 minutes, adding water if it gets too thick.
6 To assemble, spoon half of the sauce into a baking dish. Place cabbage rolls in a single layer, seam side down. Cover with remaining sauce. Make a ribbon of ketchup across the top of the rolls. Cover with foil.
7 Bake for at least 2 hours. Remove foil after 1 hour and add as much as 1⁄2 cup water if cabbage appears too dry.
8 Serve hot or hold for one day and reheat in a 325º oven.
After the core is removed, the whole cabbage head is briefly cooked in boiling war to soften leaves so that you can separate them from the head and roll. If removing individual leaves becomes difficult, just return the head to boiling water again to further loosen leaves. Once removed from the head, if they are not soft enough to roll you can return them to the water to further soften.
It is important to pat dry the leaves. Dry leaves are easier to roll. Also, residue water could thin down the sauce.
Slowly saute onions until lightly browned and caramelized to bring out their maximum sweetness. Take care not to burn.
Cabbage leftover from the whole head — leaves too small to roll — get chopped and added to onions to be used in sauce.
Continue cooking until cabbage lightly browns.
The cabbage leaves will run the gamut from large outer leaves to smaller inner leaves. To make more uniform rolls you can use two small leaves together to make a larger roll. Try to keep the stuffing together and don’t worry too much of you have formed a perfect roll. As my mother used to say, “It all gets mixed up in the stomach.” If you want to make all smaller rolls, cut large leaves in half.
Here’s a very helpful tip: The outer leaves are best for making large cabbage rolls, but outer leaves tend to have very sturdy ribs that are difficult to soften without overcooking the leaves. To solve this problem, turn the leaves so that the inner side is face down and the outer side — now face up — exposes the sturdy rib. With a sharp knife, make a series of slits in the rib without cutting all the way through. Turn the leaf over and toll. The slits now make that much easier
Place a generous amount of sauce in over-proof baking dish.
Place cabbage rolls over sauce, top with move sauce and a ribbon of ketchup.
Cover with foil and bake for the initial two hours. Then remove foil, add some water if sauce appears too thick and bake uncovered for an additional hour.
The finished product.