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Friday, July 8, 2011

Savoy Cabbage Rolls

The first time my parents went out of town and left my teenaged brother and I home alone for the night, I seized freedom with both hands and...cooked cabbage rolls.  What a rebel I was ;)  I have ever since had a soft spot for all sorts of cabbage rolls, as I mark that recipe as the first time I ever *really* planned and cooked a meal.

The original recipe comes from the behemoth European cookbook "The Silver Spoon", though I have experimented wildly with storage and delayed-cookery options, rewrote the recipe to use less weird measurements and upped the vegetable ante.  SS assumes that you will have time to prepare the leaves, prepare the filling, roll the rolls and cook them all at once.  Bwahahahahahaha!  I made the rolls and froze them individually, then cooked mine from the frozen state on the stovetop.  Turned out really well.  I'd guess that the crockpot will work just as well, though thawing the rolls first would make fitting them into the pot (on the stovetop or in the crockpot) easier.  You can also bake them in the oven, but that will take longer and you really will need to thaw them first. 

How many rolls you can get out of 1 head of cabbage depends on the size of the head and how uniform you want the rolls to be in size.  You can be pretty certain of getting 8-10 usable leaves off a medium-sized head (about the size of a honeydew) or 12-14 off a large head.  I managed to get 16 off of mine (for a double batch), but the last couple were pretty dinky and tore a bit in the removal.  Either way, you're going to wind up with a little ball of cabbage left that you can't use for rolling leaves but which will be perfect shredded for stirfry.

Ricotta Savoy Cabbage Rolls
Makes 4 servings

1 medium head savoy cabbage (8 leaves)
Boiling water
Ice water
3/4 lbs. swiss chard, sliced into ribbons or 1 10 oz. package frozen spinach, thawed
15 oz. ricotta (part skim)
2 eggs
1/4 cup parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup tomato sauce
Optional: 1-2 cups frozen peas

Blanching the cabbage leaves
To remove leaves from cabbage head, cut the root off the head and put it in a large, deep bowl.  Pour boiling water over the whole head.  Let it stand for about 5 minutes.  Drain and submerge the cabbage in ice water for about 5 minutes (I just run cold tap water into the bowl).  Start peeling the leaves, taking care not to tear them if possible.  Return all the leaves to the bowl and pour more boiling over them.  Let them stand 5 minutes, then drain. 

Cook swiss chard in boiling water for 10 minutes.  Drain very, very, very well.  Chop the cooked chard, and press as much extra water out of it as you can.  (If using spinach, drain, chop and press). 

Combine ricotta, chard/spinach, eggs, parmesan and salt and pepper to taste.  Put about 1/4 cup of the filling on the bottom of a cabbage leaf and roll it, folding the sides in.  If you plan to freeze the rolls, put them on a sheet pan or in a baking pan (if you plan to bake them).  If you plan to cook them within a day, put them in the pot you will use on the stovetop or in a crockpot insert and fridge them.  If freezing ahead, freeze the tomato sauce in a ziptop bag. 

Frozen in an 8x8 disposable pan
Frozen individually for stovetop cooking

If you are going to bake the rolls, thaw them completely.  Pour tomato sauce over rolls arranged in a square baking dish.  Sprinkle with peas, if desired.  Cover with foil.  Bake 45 minutes at 350F.

If you are going to cook the rolls on the stovetop, thawing is optional.  Thaw the tomato sauce in the microwave (1-2 minutes on high) if still frozen.  Place rolls in a heavy pot (enameled cast-iron dutch ovens are great here), pour the tomato sauce over, cover and cook over medium-high heat for 30 minutes if frozen or 20 minutes if thawed.  Add peas for last 10 minutes of cooking, if desired.

If you are going to cook the rolls in the crockpot, thawing is optional.  Thaw the tomato sauce in the microwave (1-2 minutes on high) if still frozen.  Arrange rolls in the crockpot (probably easier if thawed), pour the tomato sauce over and cook on low for 8-10 hours.  Sprinkle with peas, if desired, and cook 10 minutes or so longer.

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