Cabbage Rolls… For Picky Eaters?

Lithuanian Cabbage Rolls

I’ve never really been a fan of cabbage rolls. I’m not sure if it was that there was too much rice that made them mushy, or the tomato sauce it was cooked in, or the strong taste and smell of the  cabbage itself. I hadn’t even attempted to make them myself because I was positive I was going to hate them.

Pushing my past feelings aside, I decided to try a recipe I found for Lithuanian Cabbage Rolls (Balandeliai). I mean the photo just looked mouth watering-ly good… aaaand there was sour cream in the sauce (my weakness). I was pleasantly surprised, and to be honest, its one of my new favourite foods. The filling just melts in your mouth and its meaty enough to satisfy my carnivorous lust. The sauce is yummy and silky, not too tomato-ey with a nice tang to it. Sometimes I’ve had the sour cream curddle. Just stir it in slow and off the heat, make sure the mixture isn’t boiling or anything. If it still curdles, no worries, it still tastes just as amazing.

Lithuanian Cabbage Rolls (Balandeliai)

Recipe slightly adapted from 10th Kitchen for Lithuanian Cabbage Rolls (Balandeliai)

1 head green cabbage
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup cooked rice (I used jasmine)
1 to 1 1/2 pounds ground beef, pork or turkey (I used 1/2 beef, 1/2 pork)
1 egg, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup tomatoes, crushed, whole or pureed (I use whole and crush them a bit)
1 cup chicken or beef stock 
(I used chicken)
3 tablespoons good full fat sour cream

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and boil the head of cabbage for a few minutes, until the outer leaves are pliable enough to be pulled off.  Remove about 12 leaves, putting the cabbage back in the boiling water for a minute or two to soften the inner layers of leaves, if needed.  Once you have about a dozen leaves, remove the core from the cabbage and coarsely chop the remaining cabbage, then scatter it over the bottom of a large pot or dutch oven.

Allow the large leaves to cool a bit, then use a knife to cut away some of the tough center stem from the outside of each leaf.  Don’t cut all the way through the leaf–it should remain intact.

In a large skillet over medium heat, saute onion and garlic for a few minutes, until softened.  Allow the mixture to cool a bit before combining it with the cooked rice, ground meat and egg in a large bowl.

Place about 1/2 cup of the meat mixture on each cabbage leaf, on the end that was closest to the core and has the bottom of the center stem.  Flip up the sides and roll to encase the meat mixture.

Once you have your rolls, place them over the chopped cabbage you have in your pot or dutch oven.  Sprinkle salt and pepper over each layer.  Mix the tomato sauce and stock together, then pour it over the rolls.

Bring the pot to boil over medium-high heat on the stovetop, then lower the heat to low and simmer, covered, for an hour or so.  Remove the rolls from the pot and mix in sour cream into the pan juices to make sauce–serve rolls with sauce spooned over the top.

Serves 4-6.