Constantinescu Spetler’s Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
This recipe is the winner of our “My Family Recipe Contest,” sponsored by Le Creuset, and comes from the Constantinescu Spetler family in Romania. To keep the cabbage leaves from falling apart during blanching, boil the cabbages whole and remove the leaves as they become soft until you have the number you need.
- 2 heads green cabbage
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large onion, minced
- 2 tsp. minced fresh thyme leaves
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 lb. ground pork
- 2 tbsp. long-grain rice
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 (28-oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
- 1 lb. sauerkraut, rinsed
- 6 slices thick-cut bacon
- 2 dried bay leaves
- Sour cream, for serving
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add cabbage and cook until outer layers of leaves are softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer cabbage to a baking sheet and peel off two layers of leaves. Return cabbage to pot and repeat until you have 20 softened leaves; set softened leaves aside and reserve remaining cabbage for another use.
- Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, and thyme and cook, stirring, until soft, about 6 minutes. Transfer onion mixture to a bowl and add beef, pork, and rice. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Working with one cabbage leaf at a time, put 1 heaping tablespoon of the meat filling in the center of cabbage leaf, fold in sides of leaf, and roll the cabbage into a cylinder. Repeat with remaining cabbage leaves and meat filling and set stuffed cabbage rolls aside.
- Heat oven to 375°. Combine broth and tomatoes in a 4-qt. saucepan. Bring to a boil and set aside. Put half the sauerkraut and three slices of bacon into the bottom of a 4-qt. baking dish. Arrange 10 of the stuffed cabbage rolls and the bay leaves over the sauerkraut and bacon; pour half of the tomato mixture over the top. Season with salt and pepper and repeat preceding steps with remaining sauerkraut, bacon, stuffed cabbage rolls, and tomato mixture. Season with salt and pepper, cover with aluminum foil, and bake until the stuffed cabbage is cooked through and the flavors meld, about 2 hours. Transfer baking dish to a cooling rack and serve cabbage rolls with sour cream.