I love grandma food.
That’s what I call comfort food that either was or could have been made by a grandmother.
In the South, it’s chicken and dumplings or cheese grits or mac and cheese or any number of homemade cakes and pies. But it’s also slow-cooked Italian Sunday “gravy” over pasta, roasted beef and chicken, pierogies. Those foods that grandmothers of all cultures made with love and fed us in childhood. Ones that don’t have a place in our everyday diets, or we think take too much effort, but warm our souls when we do eat them.
I had two southern grandmothers, and my roots aren’t remotely Eastern European, but these stuffed cabbage rolls are grandma food for me. Ever since I ordered them at a local restaurant, they’ve been on my mind. Then along came the perfect recipe — it’s easy and even better than the original.
Cabbage rolls are just what they sound like — meat and rice rolled in a cabbage leaf, then cooked in a sweet and tangy tomato sauce. Putting them together is a snap, and cooking them long and low in the slow cooker achieves that homemade, stir-a-pot-over-the-stove-all-day quality. Like your grandma made them.
It’s cold outside. I need some comfort. And these cabbage rolls are (as we used to say in the ’90s) the bomb-diggity.
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
- 1 head of green cabbage
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/2 cup uncooked wild rice
- 1/4 cup diced onion
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
For the sauce:
- 1 can tomato sauce (15 ounces)
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice (can substitute apple cider vinegar)
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
Cut the core out of the cabbage and place it in a large pot (with a steamer basket, if you have one) in about an inch of water. Cover and steam the cabbage for five minutes. That just helps it be pliable so you can easily remove the leaves. Let the cabbage cool enough to handle, then carefully peel the leaves off one at a time, trying to keep them as whole as possible. If they tear a bit, that’s okay.
In a medium bowl, mix together the meat, rice, onion, milk, egg, salt and pepper. Try not to squish the meat too much, but just carefully toss it so that all the ingredients blend well. Using a small ice cream scoop or spoon, dollop a bit of the meat mixture in the center of each cabbage leaf.
Roll the leaves like a burrito, tucking in the ends. Place each roll seam side down in the crock pot dish, and layer until you run out of meat and/or cabbage.
In another bowl, whisk together all the sauce ingredients and pour over the cabbage rolls.
Cover with the crock pot lid and cook on low for 6-8 hours.