Venison Cabbage Rolls
Cabbage rolls are common in several cuisines, including the Balkans, Central, Northern and Eastern Europe, and even in West Asia. There are many Germans and Eastern Europeans in Nebraska, and although I have never had the pleasure of having it authentically prepared-- because no one has invited me over to dinner at their oma or babička's house yet (hint, hint!)-- I thought the idea was basic enough and a good way to use up some venison scraps in the freezer. Though I can't claim that these are "authentic" by any stretch, I did opt to simmer the rolls in a tomato sauce, which does point to an Eastern European persuasion. In other parts of the world-- cabbage rolls in Finland and Sweden are often served with sweet and tart lingonberry jam. And in Lebanese cuisine, they are like the shape of cigars and served with yogurt, olive oil and lemon juice.
The cabbage rolls I made here are stuffed with freshly ground venison, bacon and long grain Jasmine rice. And because I spent so much money on a jar of saffron, I try to use it whenever I can. Plus, it's a great addition to anything that is tomato-based; I believe the Greeks use saffron in their cabbage rolls. To add a salty touch, a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese finished the dish-- I probably broke some rule there, but it was so good! I bet Feta cheese would be awesome. All-in-all, this recipe turned out quite tasty. I hope to be able to eat real cabbage rolls one day to compare.
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
- 1 pound of venison roast meat, cubed and partially frozen
- 3-4 ounces of bacon, chopped and partially frozen
- 1 head of cabbage
- 1 tablespoon of fresh Italian parsley, chopped
- 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, plus extra
- 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup of uncooked long grain white rice
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
- 2 1/4 cup of crushed tomatoes
- 1 14-ounce can of low-sodium beef broth
- 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 pinch of saffron
- freshly cracked pepper
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2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine ground meat with chopped parsley, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, garlic powder and freshly cracked pepper.
Then mix in the uncooked rice and egg. Set meat aside in the refrigerator, covered.
3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Discard discolored or dried out outer leaves of cabbage. Core out the cabbage. This will allow you to easily detach the leaves later.
4. Place the cabbage in the boiling water, turning it occasionally. Allow it to cook for 2 minutes, then check to see if the outer leaves are pliable and can be easily peeled with tongs.
Peel off leaves as they become more pliable, run under cold water and drain. You should end up with 12-15 leaves.
5. With a small knife, shave away part of the lower rib on leaves to make the leaves evenly flat.
Next, place about 2 tablespoons of ground meat towards the bottom of the cabbage leaf. Fold in the two side, the bottom and then roll it all up. Repeat until you run out of ground meat.
6. In a French or Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and sauté with a pinch of salt until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
Add tomato paste and stir for another minute-- do not burn.
Pour in crushed tomatoes and beef broth to the onion.
Add thyme sprigs and a pinch of saffron. Bring sauce to a simmer.
7. Finally, gently lay rolls in the sauce in one layer, seam side down. Sprinkle lightly with more salt and pepper. Ladle some sauce over rolls, cover and bake in a 350 degree F oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Check halfway through to make sure sauce doesn't reduce too low. If so, add more stock.
Check to see if meat is thoroughly cooked. Sprinkle freshly chopped parsley on top of the rolls.
Serve warm with sauce and onions. If desired, sprinkle Parmesan or Feta cheese on top.