Stuffed Cabbage Rolls ~~ Same Great Taste, Way Less Effort
Polish and German Cooking
My father's family were of Polish and German extraction. They grew cabbage in their gardens, made huge wooden tubs of sauerkraut, and my father's Bopcia ( Bop' chuh - grandmother) placed a steaming platter of Stuffed Cabbage Rolls on the supper table (dinner was the word fancy people used - they wren't terribly fancy, just solid folks) on a fairly regular basis. Needless to say no one ever complained.
When my father and his immediate family immigrated to America, of course the recipe came with them. So I grew up eating my Bopcia's cabbage rolls and she taught my mother how to make them and she taught me in turn. Our entire extended family loved them, but they are a lot of work and take a long time to prepare.
From Generation to Generation
At some point in my teenage years, my mother introduced the family to a new - old cabbage casserole. She named it Jacek's Cabbage Goulash in honor of my father (Yah' tsek). In no time at all it became a family favorite and I don't think she ever made cabbage rolls again. Why would she? This casserole provides you with all the flavor and nutrition of cabbage, onions, and tomatoes, with almost none of the work.
My grown sons, now in their thirties, still occasionally reminisce and remember it fondly - their respective wives are kind of not the "cabbage - cooking" type. Although, I will give them credit - all three of my daughters-in-law make excellent coleslaw (and many other wonderful things as well). :) Writing about this has made me realize how long it has been since I made my father's cabbage goulash. Before it warms up any more I should make it and invite the family over. :)
Here is what you need - Ingredients
1 1/2 to 2 lbs lean ground beef
2 small or 1 very large head of cabbage
2 medium onions (any kind)
1 small package of grated carrots (optional)
2 to 3 cans diced tomatoes
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsps paprika (preferably Hungarian Paprika)
2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
1/2 to 1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup water
Here is what you do.
Chop cabbage. Put cabbage and carrots and 1 cup water in a large dutch oven. Cover with a tight fitting lid and place on medium heat. The goal is to wilt and cook the cabbage, but stir frequently to prevent cabbage from scorching. Add small amounts of water if and when needed.
Put 2 tbsp of oil in a frying pan, break up ground beef with a spoon and begin browning. When beef is halfway done add two coarsely chopped onions. Stir well and continue cooking over medium heat until meat is well done and onions are translucent. Turn off the heat and add all the spices to the frying pan and stir well.
Add the beef and onion mixture to the dutch oven and stir well. Add 2 or 3 cans diced tomatoes to the dutch oven and stir well (this is all about your families palette -- do they prefer a mild tomato taste or a strong tomato taste -- add two cans and cook awhile, then taste before adding the third can of diced tomatoes).
This should have taken about 30 - 45 minutes so far. You will need to continue simmering the Goulash for another 30 - 60 minutes. Keep the lid on if the mixture is thick and crack the lid if there is a lot of liquid and you want to cook it down. How do you know when the Cabbage Goulash is done and how long to continue simmering? Well it depends on your personal taste.
(1) Do you and your family like your cabbage to be a little bit crunchy, not quite done? Less Time Cooking. Do you like the cabbage really well done and tender? More Time Cooking.
(2) Do you want the goulash to have lots of liquid, a soup consistency? Less Time Cooking. Do you want your goulash to be thick like a stew (or a goulash)? More Time Cooking.
Here is what you serve it with.
You should end up with a dutch oven 3/4 of the way full. What do your serve it with? Well, to stay true to the ingredients in Stuffed Cabbage rolls, you can serve it with plain white rice. Be sure and start the rice while the goulash is cooking so they it be ready at about the same time.
However, if you or your people hale from the Old Country, especially Northern Europe, then you will want to serve Cabbage Goulash with simple boiled or mashed potatoes and a loaf of Pumpernickel or Rye Bread. For those of you who just said to yourself, "two starches and no other vegetables?"
First, quit talking to yourself, not a good sign. Second, this goulash consists entirely of protein and four low calorie / low carbohydrate vegetables -- cabbage, tomatoes, onions, and carrots. Choose potatoes or a dark flavorful bread ... or choose both. Either way it is still a healthy and delicious meal. This will serve 8 to 10 people and leftovers freeze very well. [You can of course divide this in half or double it if you are feeding twenty people]
Variations on Jacek's Cabbage Goulash
I would try these suggestions one at a time; I would not do all of them at the same time:
You could add some minced garlic and a little bit of cayenne pepper.
You could add one finely chopped bell pepper, if that suits your taste.
You could add one finely chopped zucchini to increase vegetable content.
You could use 4 to 6 cups chopped fresh tomatoes from your garden.
You could use 1 lb ground pork and 1 lb ground beef.
You could use 2 lbs Kielbasa (Polish Sausage), slice and brown the sausage well.
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