My in-laws came to visit for Christmas, they arrived few days before and I wanted to make something from my polish menu for dinner. I thought polish stuffed cabbage should work well. I could make it ahead, and that day just bake it in the oven.
I remember my mom used to make that dish, she didn't make it too often, as it as quite a labor intensive dish. First you have to boil the rice, brown the meat, saute onions and mushrooms (optional), mix the stuffing. Boiling the whole cabbage, and peeling the cabbage leaves slowly to make sure they came off in one piece, than stuffing and rolling those - it's more work that I imagined. But it's well worth it! To make it easier for myself - I used creamy tomato soup for tomato sauce base. I added a can of petite diced tomatoes with their juice, few crushed cloves of garlic and some lemon juice (the soup is little sweeter, and I wanted a tangy sauce) - let t simmer on low heat for about 45 minutes to an hour.
My polish cooking is based on what I remember what my grandmother or my mom used to make. Usually I don't have written recipes - I just try to figure out the ingredients by myself or sometimes call my mom and she tells me what she used to put in, or how she made it. I always tend to make it with a twist, always trying to figure out how to make it little different or find an easier way around. For this particular dish I wanted to make sure I have leftovers so I can freeze and enjoy it later without extra work. (This proportions made 22 pieces of stuffed cabbage)
For stuffing I used:
2 cups of uncooked long grain (or jasmine) rice
2 lb. of lean ground pork
1 medium onion, diced
10 medium baby bella (crimini) mushrooms, chopped
2 crushed cloves of garlic
salt and pepper to taste
Cook rice according to directions, don't cook it all the way through, aldente is just fine, as you will bake the stuffed cabbage in the oven to finish it. Brown the ground pork with garlic, season to taste. Saute onions and mushrooms until done. Mix the rice with pork and mushroom, stir well to combine all the ingredients. Make sure you taste your staffing and adjust the seasoning as needed.
Boil water in a large pot, season with salt. Cut out the stem portion of the cabbage with a paring knife. It's not easy, so be careful. Put the cabbage into a boiling water, cover and let it cook for about 10-15 minutes. The cabbage will change the color slightly, take it out, let it cool down for few minutes and start peeling off the leaves gently.
Butter baking dish liberally, and have it ready by your work station. That's where the stuffed cabbage will go. Before you start with stuffing the cabage, prepare your tomato sauce, it needs time to simmer. I used 1 carton of creamy tomato soup, pour the soup into a saoce pan, let it simmer on low heat. In food processor, puree 1 can of diced tomatoes with 2 cloves of garlic. Pour the mix into the soup, stirr, add lemon juice (1/2 of lemon) - maybe more - it depends what flavor you are looking for. I like it tangy... let it simmer for 45 minutes. Taste it, and add salt and pepper as needed.
Stuffing the cabbage leaves: Take a leaf put a liberal amount of stuffing on it, try to squeeze the stuffing to form it for a better fit. Wrap the cabbage leaf around the stuffing, tuck the sides in, and start laying them down in your buttered baking dish. Once you are done, pour tomato sauce over and bake in 350 degrees oven for an hour. You want to make sure that the cabbage is cooked. Use leftover sauce to serve the stuffed cabbage with. I like to serve it with chopped herbs like dill and chives.