This past Monday Tom and I went out for lunch at King Gyros, a little gem of a Greek restaurant on Hamilton Road in Whitehall.
I had a delicious mini-gyro with french fries. The fries at King Gyros have got to be among the best on the planet, kind of small and irregularly cut, always hot and crispy and oh, so perfectly seasoned.
Tom, however, ordered the cabbage rolls, which was a mistake. Not because the cabbage rolls were bad (they weren't at all). But because there was just no way those cabbage rolls were going to be as good as the ones I make.
But I if I make the best cabbage rolls it's only because I have the best recipe, which I got from Tom's mom who brought it with her when she came to this country from Pusztadobos, a small village in Hungary close to the Russian border.
So my rolls are of the Hungarian version called turtur kapusta, stuffed cabbage, and are so good that they raise cabbage to an altogether higher culinary plane.*
In fact I was a little surprised that Tom would even order stuffed cabbage in a restaurant knowing he was sure to be disappointed, until he reminded me that it had been so long - years, in fact - since I'd made stuffed cabbage that seeing the dish on the menu gave him a mighty hankering.
I was then struck with remorse, which was why I dashed off to Krogers that very day to pick up the ingredients for a batch of stuffed cabbage (and subsequently got all caught up in all the new stuff at Krogers. See yesterday's post).
Anyway, I thought I'd share Tom's mom's stuffed cabbage recipe, not only for the sake of sharing it, but so that it will be recorded somewhere. Tom's mom is now 96 years old and her recipe, which she never wrote down, lives on only with me and with her daughter, Mary Jane. So the recipe needs to be written down. And the dish needs to be made from time to time.
So yesterday, for the first time in probably ten years, I made a batch of Hungarian stuffed cabbage. Did it turn out as good as we remembered? Maybe it was a case of absence making the stomach grow fonder, but Tom and I both swore it was the best batch ever.
So, here's the recipe for the best stuffed cabbage on the planet, with some hopefully helpful photos. I'll try to give the measurements as precisely as I can, though the recipe was originally was told to me not in precise amounts, but rather in terms of some of this and some of that - some ground beef, some cabbage, some rice, some salt, etc. Also I've tweaked the seasonings slightly from the original , which called only for salt and pepper. And the original recipe calls for adding sour cream at the end of the cooking, which I don't do, but which you can if you want to. And, by the by, I usually make a double recipe then freeze some. So:
Hungarian Stuffed Cabbage
1 head of cabbage. Try to find one with nice big leaves
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup of rice
1 46-oz. can of tomato juice (You might need a bit more, so maybe buy two cans)
1 14-oz. can sauerkraut
1teaspoon of salt
Lawrey's Garlic Salt*
*I generally give two or three good shakes of each seasoning.
1. Boil the head of cabbage in a pot of water for about 20 minutes. Looks like this when it's done.
2. Cover the rice in water and let it soak while the cabbage boils.
3. When the cabbage is finished rinse it in cold water to cool it down so you can handle it.
4. Drain the rice and mix it with the ground beef, Lawry's garlic salt, onion powder, and parsley.
5. Open the can of sauerkraut and spread about a third of it on the bottom of a large pot - can be the same pot as you cooked the head of cabbage in.
6. Tear off a leaf of cabbage and place a small oblong ball of meat mixture in the center. wrap the leaf around the meat and fold the edges under. (Oops! forgot to take a photo of a cabbage roll!). Repeat until you've used up all the meat.
7. Place the cabbage rolls on top of the sauerkraut in the bottom of the pan. Continue placing the rolls in the pot, layering the rolls with the sauerkraut.
8. If you have any left-over cabbage after the meat is used up, cut it up and put it on top of the cabbage rolls in the pot.
9. Sprinkle some salt on the top layer of cabbage.
10. Mix the can of tomato juice with 1 tsp salt and some parsley. If you need more juice add a little more salt and parsley.
11. Pour the juice over the pot of cabbage so that it almost covers the cabbage.
12. Cover the pot and simmer for about 2 1/2 hours.
13. It's done! Enjoy! 8)
*Not to mention how good cabbage is for you, a real health super-food, full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and glutamine, which has anti-inflamatory properties. And it's low, low, low in calories 8)!
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I am a traveler just visiting this planet and reporting various and sundry observations,
hopefully of interest to my fellow travelers.