Don't you love it when you see someone so into what they are doing, that they forget everything else around them? My friend Annie came over to teach me how to make her Stuffed Cabbage recipe. I never thought I would like Stuffed Cabbage, but after tasting hers the other day I had to eat my words, and go out and find a big, leafy, green cabbage.
Annie saw the cabbage she exclaimed that it was the biggest cabbage she had
ever seen. In fact she must have said it a million times, during the course
of making stuffed cabbage, "Mon Dieu, what an amazing cabbage!" And like a woman who loves what she is doing, she started to prepare the cabbage without even taking off her hat, nor putting on an apron. Her hands worked worked steadily, I barely had time to record her steps.
Gently tear off the leaves of the cabbage, all the way to the tight core.
Then trim down (but not through) the hard, back, rib on each cabbage leaf (photo above)
Then trim a tiny bit off the top of each leaf.
While Annie was busy preparing the cabbage she gave me instructions on how to make the cabbage stuffing (Farce in French). Peel and puree four, yellow onions. Add the puree onions to a heavy pan.
My eyes were watering badly I could hardly see what I was doing, Annie said, "The next time you peel onions, dip your knife into a glass of water each time you go to use it."
That is fine and dandy I wanted to say, but since I didn't know how to say that in French, I pointed out that I pureed the onions with a mixer. "Oh," she said, " I didn't hear it. Wear goggles the next time you do that."
Add the pureed onions, plus a teaspoon of salt and pepper, to a heavy sauce pan. Then add at least four to six cups of olive oil. I daresay that I questioned Annie as I poured the bottle of olive oil into the pan, "Annie are you sure? Gee, this is a ton of oil?" Annie said, "Am I sure? Sure I am sure!" I stopped at four cups. Annie came over and added at least two more cups of olive oil.
Hence, pureed onions must swim in olive oil.
Saute the pureed onions on medium heat, stir often, until golden. While this is going on, add a large pot of water to the stove, to blanch the cabbage leaves. When the onions are golden and somewhat caramelized, add two pounds of pearl rice, continue to stir, saute until golden (about forty-five minutes.) Do not add water. The rice cooks in the olive oil-onion mixture.
When the water is boiling, add the cabbage leaves one at a time, gently push them down, add up to ten leaves at a time. Blanche the darker ones together, and then the lighter ones together. Do not mix the two, because the darker ones take longer to blanch.
Add ten leaves to the boiling water, the water will stop boiling at this point, when the water starts to re-boil, count five minutes for the darker leaves, and three minutes for the lighter leaves.
After each batch of ten cabbage leaves have cooked take them out and put them into a strainer, then add them to a plate separately to cool off. Cook all the cabbage leaves this way.
This is why my house did not smell like chocolate. Blanching cabbage has its own perfume.
"Mon Dieu what an amazing cabbage!"
When the onion-rice mixture is carmelized, and the rice is nearly cooked (tender with a slight chewy texture,) add four cups of tomato sauce (I used French Husband's homemade tomato sauce.) and one cup of finely chopped, fresh fennel leaves (Annie gathers fennel leaves in the summer, blanches them, and then freezes them in one cup packets.) stir the tomato and fennel into the carmelized onion rice mixture thoroughly. Cook the tomato sauce and fennel for a few minutes longer.
Put the cooked cabbage stuffing into a bowl. Take a blanched cabbage leaf, start with the darker green ones first, put the cabbage leaf on the palm of your hand. Take two heaping tablespoons of onion-rice mixture and add it to the middle of the cabbage leaf. Fold one side over, then the other side over, then roll starting with the stem side first, and roll it up. Add the stuffed cabbage leaf to the heavy sauce pan that you used to cook the rice mixture, use it as it -do not clean the pan. Put the stuffed, cabbage rolls in the pan one by one, snug but not to tight. When the pan is full, with at least two inches head room, add three to four cups of the broth water (Use the water that you used to blanch the leaves in.)
Add a plate on top of the stuffed cabbage rolls, then a lid. I asked Annie why and she said that it gives a tighter seal.
Cover the pan and bring the stuffed cabbage rolls to a boil. Then turn the burner down as low as it can go and leave it to cook slowly for about forty five minutes to an hour.
Below you will find a video that my daughter Chelsea took while Annie and I were at the end of our Stuffed Cabbage making. Mind you it is uncut, untouched and full of pans banging, my French grammar errors and well it is what it is.... the only thing missing is the taste of the stuffed cabbages.
One large green cabbage,
Four yellows onions pureed,
One cup of fresh fennel leaves (the plant, not the bulb),
Six cups of olive oil,
Two pounds of rice,
Three to four cups of tomato sauce,
One teaspoon of salt,
One teaspoon of pepper,
One heavy sauce pan to cook the onion and rice stuffing,
One large pan to blanch the cabbage leaves,
One large bowl for the cook stuffing.
Preparing and cooking time about three hours.