Winter is the season for hearty Hungarian dishes. Cabbage is a favorite winter food that can be prepared in many delicious ways. Stuffed cabbage is one of the most popular classics and it usually makes the Christmas and New Year's Eve menus in most homes. Preparing the dish is time-consuming but not difficult and the result is well worth the effort. Stuffed cabbage rolls come in many variations, the filling can be ground pork, beef or chicken, the sauce can be plain or tomato based and adding smoked meat and/or sausage will only enhance the flavors. Here is a recipe I go to for my winter stuffed cabbage fix.
12 cabbage leaves
2 pounds of sauerkraut
1 pound of fresh ground pork
3/4 pounds of smoked ribs
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
½ cup of rice
2-3 bay leaves
paprika, salt and black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of flour
Partially cook the rice in a bowl and sauté half of the finely chopped onions. Let them cool down. Mix the ground pork, onions, garlic, rice and egg in a bowl. Add the salt, black pepper and a teaspoon of paprika and mix everything together thoroughly.
Remove the heavy ribs from the cabbage leaves and place equal amounts of the ground pork mixture in the middle of the leaves. Fold and roll the leaves.
Take a larger pot, spread about 1/3 of the sauerkraut on the bottom, add some of the remaining chopped onions and place some smoked ribs and a layer of the stuffed cabbages. Repeat the layers until you run out of ingredients. Finish with a layer of sauerkraut. Add enough water to cover all the ingredients. Add the bay leaves, a teaspoon of paprika and some pepper. Cover and let it cook on medium heat for about two hours. Adding salt is usually not necessary, as the sauerkraut and the smoked meat are already salty.
In a saucepan make a light broth from 2 tablespoons of oil, 2 tablespoons of flour and a teaspoon of paprika. Add a few tablespoons of water (from the pot) for a smooth, creamy texture. Remove the stuffed cabbages and the smoked meat from the pot, reduce the heat, add the hot broth to the sauerkraut. Bring it to a boil and thicken the sauerkraut (it takes about 3 minutes). Place the stuffed cabbages and the smoked meat back onto the sauerkraut, add some sour cream and your Hungarian stuffed cabbages are ready for serving.
Bon appétit! (Jó étvágyat!)