Hearty Stuffed Cabbage
- SERVINGS: 8
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- 1 cup dried Polish mushrooms or porcini (1 ounce)
- 3 1/2- to 4-pound head of green cabbage
- Ice water
- 14 ounces to 1 pound skinless kielbasa, cut into chunks
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- 2 teaspoons dried dill
- 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 Granny Smith apple
- 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
- Two 15-ounce cans of tomato sauce (3 1/2 cups)
- 1 imported bay leaf
- Basmati rice or steamed potatoes, for serving
- In a small bowl, cover the mushrooms with 1 cup of hot water and let soak for 30 minutes. Drain the mushrooms, reserving the liquid. Rinse the mushrooms to remove any grit, then chop them. Strain the soaking liquid through a sieve lined with a moistened paper towel and reserve.
- Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Remove any damaged outer leaves from the cabbage. With a sharp knife, core the cabbage, cutting a hole at least one inch wide and deep. Place the cabbage in the saucepan, cored end down, and boil for 12 minutes. With 2 large spoons, transfer the cabbage to a large bowl of ice water and let cool slightly. Carefully peel off as many softened leaves as you can without tearing them. Return the cabbage to the saucepan and repeat the process, if necessary, until you have 16 whole leaves.
- Quarter the remaining cabbage and transfer to a food processor; chop fine. Measure out 2 packed cups and place in a large, heavy enameled casserole; reserve the rest for another use.
- Add the kielbasa to the food processor and grind fine. In a large nonstick skillet, cook the kielbasa over moderately high heat until lightly browned; transfer to a large bowl. Add the onion to the skillet and cook over moderate heat until softened. Spoon half of the onion into the bowl with the kielbasa and the other half into the casserole.
- Crumble the ground beef over the kielbasa and add the chopped mushrooms, bread crumbs, paprika, dill and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt; mix well. Blend in the eggs and half of the reserved mushroom liquid.
- Using a sharp knife, shave the raised thick rib from each cabbage leaf so that it is level with the leaf. Spread out the cabbage leaves and fill each one with a rounded 1/4 cup of the meat stuffing. Fold the rib end of each leaf up over the stuffing and fold the top of the leaf down over it. Using both index fingers, tuck in the ends of each cabbage roll to form a neat tubular package.
- Preheat the oven to 350°. Peel the apple and grate it into the casserole; discard the core. Add the wine and simmer over moderate heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining mushroom soaking liquid, 2 cups of water, the tomato sauce, bay leaf and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Carefully add the cabbage rolls and bring to a simmer. cover the casserole, transfer it to the oven and cook for 1 1/4 hours. Discard the bay leaf. Serve 2 rolls per person, with rice or potatoes.
Although the dish uses white wine, a substantial red is better suited to the porcini and kielbasa in the stuffed cabbageand the acidity of tomato sauce calls for a red with some tartness of its own. A Chianti Classico Riserva would be ideal.