Good old stuffed cabbage. Also known as holubky, if you want to sound Slovak. I mean that’s what my grandparents, who spoke Slovak, used to call this dish so it’s for sure authentic. However, I’m not so sure how authentic this actual recipe is. It does have condensed tomato soup as the main ingredient and I’m *pretty* sure that the canned stuff didn’t exist until fairly recently. However, it’s how it was made at home since I was little and there’s nothing better than comfort food. Especially when it’s fairly simple to make!
Funny story about stuffed cabbage. I loved stuffed cabbage growing up. It was something that was made when we were all gathered as family for special occasions or for a Sunday dinner. My grandmothers would probably spend extra time putting together and rolling the stuffed cabbage to make them perfect. We’d always end up with enough to feed a hungry army so I figure they probably spent quite a bit of time making them. Well, there I came along as a young child and I would absolutely refuse to eat the actual cabbage. I would actually make my parents or grandparents UNWRAP those beautiful little rolls so that I could eat the meat and rice and sauce without touching that “gross” stuff known as cabbage.
As I grew older I’m sure my parents told me a million times to eat the cabbage. Eat the cabbage. Eat the cabbage. No, I would not eat the cabbage. No, I’m good. I’m not eating the cabbage. You get the gist. All those years my parents would eat my cabbage for me (you certainly cannot waste this stuff!).
Well, turns out as you get older and move out and decide to cook for yourself, you no longer have parents to pick apart your stuffed cabbage and eat the cabbage for you. So, to my dismay…I ate the cabbage. FINALLY, after 20-some years I ate the cabbage and…/drum roll/…it turns out it tastes like everything else in the pot with it. What an anticlimactic ending to a 20 year battle. After simmering for hours in a pot, the cabbage is basically the same soft, lovely consistency as the meat and rice. Then you add the sauce (you have to add sauce, for sure) and I probably would not even be able to tell the difference between filling and cabbage without looking.
I suppose I had the best parents and grandparents in the world to put up with my stuffed cabbage issues. I’m sorry for all the stuffed cabbage that I unrolled throughout my life. They were most likely perfectly made with love.
1 pound meatloaf mixture ground meat (mixture of beef, pork, and veal)
2 cans condensed tomato soup
1 cup water, plus water to cover the cabbage rolls
2 tablespoons vinegar
salt & pepper, to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut the core out of the head of cabbage and place the cabbage in the water. Return to a light simmer. Using tongs, remove the outer layers of cabbage as they start to soften (approximately 1-2 minutes per layer). Place the softened leaves on a towel or in a colander to drain. Keep removing the outer leaves until only the middle of the cabbage remains. Remove and drain the middle. Let cool.
Once the leaves are slightly cooled, cut out the thick rib at the bottom of the leaf. I use kitchen scissors to do this. Start with the largest leaves to make into rolls. Lay the smaller leaves or leaves from the center over the bottom of a large pot to protect the rolls from burning during cooking.
Mix the parboiled rice, ground meat, eggs, salt, and pepper in a medium sized bowl. Place approximately 1/4 cup of the meat mixture in each cabbage leaf (depending on the leaf's size) and roll by pulling the sides of the leaf towards the middle then rolling away from you (like a burrito!).
Stack the cabbage rolls with the open side down over the leaves on the bottom of the large pot.
In a separate bowl, mix together the cans of soup, 1 cup of water, vinegar, and salt and pepper. Pour over the cabbage rolls. Fill the pot up with enough water to just cover the rolls.
Bring the water to a simmer on the stove top, cover, and simmer on low for 2 hours. Do not stir, though you can make sure the water is still covering the rolls by pressing them down periodically.
Serve with bread to scoop up the extra sauce!
*To parboil rice place 3/4 cup of water and 3/4 cup of rice in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer until no more water remains in the pan.
You can use just ground beef for stuffed cabbage, but I really like the mix of meat. I just get the pre-mixed meatloaf mix at the store. Usually I don't even have to go to the meat counter for it.
Flavor From Scratch http://www.flavorfromscratch.com/
I’m approximately 72.5793% Slovak. Approximate guess. OKAY, random number I made up. But needless to say this fine specimen (me, of course) is mostly Slovak. I may, however, lose some Eastern European credit when I confess that I have never made homemade pierogi before now. I’ve eaten them many a time but never have these hands made them. *Sigh* Yes, I am ashamed.
My grandpa used to help make pierogi at his church and he would bring some back sometimes to eat. I’m pretty sure that when I say he helped “make” pierogi, he actually spent most of the time telling jokes and stories. However, the actual cooks were most likely well entertained during the pierogi-making process. And we were all happy to end up with tasty pierogi.
Since I had little idea of where to start making pierogi, I went to my trusty Slovak cookbook my grandma gave me many years ago filled with a wonderful mix of Slovak recipes and random recipes (I’m just guessing that chop suey is not Slovak…could be wrong). However, when the pierogi recipe called for 1 cup of flour and 1 potato to make 50 pierogi, I knew I probably would need a miracle from God to make that work. So, instead I found my way to the trusty internet and put together a mix of what I saw there with what my parents could tell me about how my grandparents would make pierogi and here is the end result.
These would be really good to make with friends, especially those with good jokes and stories like my grandpa had. I’m not saying they are hard to make, but very time consuming because so much love needs to go into each individual pierogi. Luckily, this recipe makes a good number of pierogi and once you have a system down, it wouldn’t be hard to make more! Just make sure your arms are up for a workout with all the dough rolling!
*Note: Yes, the plural is actually pierogi, not pierogies as many people say. It may even be spelled pirohy if you are Slovak. Only if you are Slovak can you spell it that way. Sorry non-Slovak friends. Such is life.
Mix the flour and salt together and pour on a flat surface. Form a well in the middle of the flour then add the milk and 1 tablespoon of melted butter to the well.
Start incorporating the milk and butter into the flour until you form a dough. Add water, as necessary, to help form the dough. I ended up using about 1/2 cup of water, but you may need more or less.
Knead the dough for 10-15 minutes until a ball forms (Yes, you are reading that right. Turn on the TV or have a nice conversation while this is happening!)
Cover the dough ball with a bowl or in plastic wrap. Let sit about half an hour to rest.
Directions for the filling
While the dough is resting, peel and cut the potatoes into about 1 inch pieces. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Let boil until the potatoes are fork tender. This process will take about 20 minutes.
Puree the onion and garlic in a food processor (you can also chop them into small pieces but my husband and I don't love onions so I pureed them to hide the texture a bit)
Saute the onion and garlic mixture in 1 tablespoon of butter for about 5 minutes until the onions turn slightly transparent and start to brown.
Drain and mash the potatoes, saving about 1/4 cup of the potato water to thin the potatoes if needed (you can also use milk or regular water to thin the potatoes).
Mix in the cheddar cheese, onion and garlic mixture, salt and pepper, and bacon to the potatoes. Add potato water or milk to thin the mashed potatoes if needed.
To make the pierogi
Divide the dough into 2 or 3 pieces to make it easier to work with. Keep the extra pieces covered while working.
Roll the dough thin and cut into circles with a cookie cutter or glass.
Put about a teaspoon of potato filling into the center.
Wet one side of the dough circle with water to help seal and fold the pierogi in half.
Use a fork to seal the edges (and make it look pretty!)
Place about 8 pierogi at a time in boiling, salted water. Let the pierogi float to the top then cook for one additional minute. Let drain on a drying rack or towel.
Fry in butter until golden brown. Garnish with chives to serve.
You can also serve pierogi with sour cream on top. My grandma would always finish the pierogi by frying them in butter along with onions (again, not a huge onion fan so I put the onion in the filling instead). I actually used bacon fat from cooking the bacon to fry the pierogi the first time we ate these. Also delicious. Pierogi freeze well after they are boiled. Just let them dry off a bit once they come out of the water so they don't stick together. I put parchment paper between the layers of pierogi before freezing as well. When you bring them out out of the freezer you can just fry them up, even without defrosting prior to cooking.