In my years of cooking and baking I’ve done some impressive things. But for all of my culinary prowess and experience, there is one skill I simply cannot do.
I cannot wrap food.
This ineptness of mine transcends regional cuisine. Whether it’s burritos, or crepes, sushi, or (case in point) cabbage rolls, I have a complete inability to wrap one piece of food around another.
And so the only reason I chose to try this recipe was because we had cabbages in our CSA box. After a week of coleslaw and sauerkraut, I had four kiddos who were sick of cabbage and a rather large cabbage still left in the fridge. Never too proud to bribe my kiddos, I thought they might eat it if I cooked it with sausage and tomatoes.
I gave the wrapping an honest attempt, but I simply couldn’t get those cabbage leaves separated without ripping them. Then I had the brilliant idea of layering everything in a baking dish (I used a 9″x12″ dish) and making a casserole. I poured the cooked sausage into the bottom, chopped up the boiled cabbage a bit, and poured the tomato sauce on top. I suppose if I was serving this in a schmoozy high-end restaurant I’d call it “Deconstructed Stuffed Rolls a la Cabbage” or something like that. But in my house, it’s just a casserole.
Sure enough, the whole family adored this dish, and even requested it on leftover night (that’s when you know you have a real winner!)
The recipe calls for fennel pollen, which was new to me. I couldn’t find any in the stores. I did some research to understand what the flavor of fennel pollen was (like uber-fennel, with a little sweetness) and so I substituted 1 tsp ground fennel seed and 1/2 tsp honey. This was tasty and worked out fine, but, my friends, I have since gotten my hands on some of that fennel pollen and the flavor is like nothing else I’ve ever tried. Look for more on fennel pollen in a post next week. For the purposes of this recipe though, if you can find it, definitely go for the pollen. If you can’t find it, you’ll get by with some ground fennel and honey.
Source: The Art of Real Food by Joanne Neft and Laura Kenny
Course: Main (Pork)
- 4 large cabbage leaves
- 1 Tbs grapeseed oil
- 1/2 cup onions small diced
- 1/2 cup bell pepper small diced
- 1 pound ground pork sausage
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 1 tsp chili flakes
- 1 tsp fennel pollen
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a large pot of boiling, salted water, blanch cabbage leaves for 30 seconds. Immediately transfer to an ice bath to cool. Lay flat on a paper towel to dry.
- In a large saute pan, heat oil, and cook onions and bell peppers until fragrant. Add sausage and cook until done. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- In a saucepan, heat tomato sauce. Season with chili flakes and fennel pollen. Simmer to combine flavors, about 10 minutes.
- To assemble, place 1/4 of sausage mixture at the top center of each cabbage leaf. Roll in and up (like an eggroll) to seal. Place tomato sauce mixture in baking dish, and place cabbage rolls on top. Bake 10-15 minutes before serving.