[Sorry we’ve been MIA lately. We’ve been busy with different things, but now will post regularly! Happy noms. The following recipe is amazing, by the way. – Abby]
Believe me, I know. I would be hard pressed to think up a less inspiring name if I tried: Cabbage. WOOOO! Casserole. PAAAARTY!! Despite the handicap, this is one of my all-time favorite recipes. This has an excellent cabbage-caraway flavor combination that I’ve seen used in a few other things (piroshky!) It is perfect for cooler days when you want something to stick to your ribs. Plus it’s full of good stuff, so you don’t need to feel bad about the bacon and sour cream on top.
Honestly, part of the reason I love this meal is nostalgia. This recipe came from my mom, and I’m pretty sure she got it from her mother (or maybe a book that she got from her mother? Whatever.) It’s something I grew up with, and let it be known that my mother is a darned good cook. As a kid, though, I didn’t really appreciate this fact nearly enough… funny how dorm food can bring something like that into perspective. MoM makes this whenever I go back to Spokane to visit, and it’s still great. Test of time: passed.
Thanks to MoM, this one is now in my collection too. It did take me a few tries to get it “right”. Fortunately, each attempt was still tasty and full of the flavors that make the casserole so good and unique – not that it’s a tough recipe; I’ve just been spoiled by MoM’s fine-tuning for years!
I use the same Dutch oven (or casserole dish) for almost all of the cooking and sauteing now, because it lets the fats, oils and flavors from each step work their magic on everything else. This was Abby’s idea, and it’s a brilliant one.
Note: If you don’t have caraway seeds in your kitchen, this is a prefect excuse to remedy this heinous shortcoming. The flavor of this dish really depends on them. Besides, if you’ve never cooked with caraway, you’ll thank me for it. Think about the flavor of a good rye-bread. Now think about cooking that flavor into other stuff. Yes? Okay.
Just like MoM used to make…
Adapted from Reid’s mom, Sylvia, in Spokane, WA.
6 ounces sliced, chopped bacon
6 cups green cabbage (1 medium/large head, cored and sliced or shredded)
2 cups minced onion, divided (2 large onions)
2 ½ teaspoons salt
¾ pound ground lean pork or veal
¾ pound ground lean beef
Freshly ground pepper
½ cup raw white rice
2 cups canned tomato puree
1 cup water
1/3 cup apple-cider vinegar
1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
2 heaping teaspoons caraway seeds
1 pint sour cream, at room temperature
If your sour cream isn’t room temperature, I recommend putting it out right now (it spreads a lot easier at room temp).
In a large Dutch oven, cook the (already chopped) bacon until slightly crisp on medium-high (about 5 minutes) crumble, and reserve for later. The bacon is really the last thing we’ll need, but the bacon FAT is where it’s at and we want that NOW. In the same pot- on medium heat- sauté the half cabbage and 1 cup of onions in a couple tablespoons of bacon fat for about 7 to 8 minutes until it is wilted and begins to brown. Add the remaining cabbage and cook until evenly browned and wilted. Put the whole batch into a large bowl, mix with 1 tsp of salt and set aside.
Still in the same Dutch oven with a little bit of bacon and cabbage goodness leftover, add meats and the remaining 1 cup of onion and sauté over medium heat for about 10 minutes—until meat starts to brown. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt, transfer to another bowl, and put this one aside for later too.
In a small saucepan, combine the tomato puree, water, cider vinegar, brown sugar, caraway seeds, and the remaining 1/2 tsp salt, and heat until it barely simmers. I’ll say it again, don’t skimp on the caraway seeds!
Putting it all together: Spread one third of the cabbage-onion mixture in the bottom of the Dutch oven. Spread one half of the meat-onion mixture over the cabbage-onion mixture and sprinkle with ¼ cup of the rice. Repeat—ending with the cabbage-onion mixture. Finally, pour the warmed sauce slowly over the layers. (Cabbage. Meat. Rice. Cabbage. Meat. Rice. Cabbage. Sauce.)
Bring to a simmer and lower heat to low, cook until the cabbage is tender and the rice is done, about 45 minutes. When I think I’m done cooking, I put a large spoon down one of the sides to peek at the cross-section. If the rice isn’t cooked or it’s soupier than you’d like, put the lid back on and consider bumping the heat up one notch for 5-10 minutes.
Just before serving spread the sour cream on top of the casserole and sprinkle the bacon crumbles over the sour cream.
In the sauce, lemon juice can also be used instead of cider vinegar. Also, amounts of vinegar/lemon and brown sugar can be reduced to taste for less of a sweet-and-sour flavor. I don’t do this.
The aforementioned ‘last time success’ meant that the entire casserole was a little more solid than it had been in previous attempts – less soupy. Additionally, I used a package of meat that was an even 1/3 mix of ground beef, veal and pork – just something I found at Fairway and thought looked good. The pack totaled ~ 1.7 lbs instead of exactly 1.5, and I think using a little more meat helped the texture too.
Once you’ve got your serving in a bowl, don’t be afraid to stir it up and mix the casserole with the sour cream. It also goes really well with whole-kernel corn. Just saying!