Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Makes 8 large rolls

For the Pork Stuffing Reduction:

3 tablespoons regular olive oil
2 medium onions (1 pound), peeled and diced small
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
3 cloves garlic (1 ounce), peeled and finely chopped
1 cup dry white wine

Place a sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil.  When hot, add the onions and sauté for 3 minutes.  Add bay leaf, thyme, and garlic and sauté for 1 minute.  Add the wine and reduce until the pan is nearly dry.  Place on a plate to cool and chill in the refrigerator.

For the Pork Stuffing:

Prepared Pork Stuffing Reduction 

1 cup dry plain breadcrumbs, mixed with ¼ cup water
¾ cup tomato paste
3 large eggs
½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 pounds ground pork

Mix all ingredients together, except the ground pork, until well mixed.  Add the pork and mix with hands until blended.  Reserve the Pork Stuffing in the refrigerator.

For the Cabbage Rolls:

1 head Savoy cabbage (you will need 12–16 large leaves)
Prepared Pork Stuffing

Heat a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Remove and discard the core from the cabbage and carefully peel away the whole leaves.  Blanch the leaves in the water for about 2 minutes.  Shock the leaves in ice water then drain in a colander until they are fairly dry.  Cut halfway up each leaf to remove the heavy coarse part in the middle of the cabbage leaf.  Divide Pork Stuffing into 8 portions.  Place the stuffing in the middle of leaves and roll like you would an egg roll by folding the sides of the cabbage inward, then rolling to form a roll, about 5 inches long by 2 inches wide.  Place the rolls in a nonreactive baking dish that is large enough to hold the 8 rolls. (If you are making sauce immediately, you can leave rolls out, but if you are making it later, refrigerate the rolls and remove them from the refrigerator when you start to make the sauce.)

For the Sauce and To Finish the Dish:

¼ pound bacon, cut in ¼-inch-thick matchstick-sized pieces
1 small onion (6 ounces), peeled and diced medium
1 small carrot (1½ ounces), diced medium
1 stalk celery (2 ounces), diced medium
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme
1 cinnamon stick
1 whole star anise
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns, crushed
2 cloves garlic (½ ounce), thinly sliced
¾ cup red wine vinegar
1¼ cup dry white wine
¾ cup tomato paste
3¾ cups unsalted chicken stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the bacon and cook, stirring, until lightly golden, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon and reserve. Leave the fat in the pan.  Add the onions, carrot, and celery and sauté until lightly golden, about 4 to 5 minutes.  Add the bay leaves, thyme, cinnamon stick, star anise, crushed peppercorns, and garlic and sauté 1 minute.  Add the vinegar and reduce to dry.  Add the white wine and reduce by half.  Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.  Add the chicken stock and bring up to a boil.  Cover the pan, remove from the heat, and let it steep for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 350°. Strain the sauce through a medium strainer over the cabbage rolls.  Cover the top of the baking dish with a piece of parchment paper, then cover the dish with aluminum foil. Bake for 1¼ to 1½ hours, or until cooked through.  Remove the stuffed cabbage to plates. Add the reserved bacon to the sauce, adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, and serve along with the cabbage rolls.

Read Sandy's story, "Humble Luxury," behind the cabbage rolls.

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Sandy D'Amato

Sanford (Sandy) D’Amato is a James Beard Award–winning chef who teaches cooking classes at Good Stock Farm, his home in Hatfield. He is the former chef/owner of Sanford Restaurant in Milwaukee, and the author of GOOD STOCK: Life on a Low Simmer, his memoir with recipes. Learn more about Sandy and Good Stock Farm cooking classes at GoodStockFarm.com.