Holubtsi are a great comfort food as they are rather hearty and nutritious. Don’t expect these to come with a salad – they served on their own with either a dollop of sour cream or sautéed tomato paste, and sprinkled with chopped dill. As they take a while to cook, they are never made in single portions. Normally, enough for two or three lunches and that feed a few people is made at one time. They taste even more exquisite the next day, so no worries about freshness. Oh, and don’t get discouraged by the lengthy process: the magnificent taste of holubtsi is totally worth the hassle!
1 (4,5 lb) head white cabbage 1 lb pork ½ lb chicken ½ lb beef 4 onions 1 (4 oz) cup rice ½ lb tomatoes 4 small carrots 8 oz sour cream 4 oz tomato paste 1-2 tbsp vegetable oil ground black pepper salt
How to Cook the Rice: Separate the cabbage leaves from the cob and scald the leaves in boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes. If the leaves are large, cut along the vein on both sides. Otherwise, just cut off the veins, but be careful not to cut through the leaf. Set aside any damaged or small leaves. Line the pot bottom with the scalded cabbage leaves. If you have enough, place them around the sides as well. Rinse the rice thoroughly in cold water and boil it until semi-ready (approx. 7-10 minutes). How to Make the Filling: Mix the ground meat and rice together in a large bowl. Fry the onions until translucent. Set aside 1⁄2 for the sauce and use 1⁄2 for the filling. Grate and sauté the carrots with approximately 3 tbsp oil and 1 tbsp butter over a medium-to-high heat until soft. These are added to the filling for their flavor. Mix the fried onions, carrots, and tomato paste together. Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste. How to Make the Assembling:
For small leaves: slice off the raised surface of the tough center stem just to flatten the leaf and make it easier to roll. Fill each leaf with about 2 tbsp meat mixture. Place the filling over the stem/bottom portion. Roll like a burrito and tug both ends in with your fingers. For large leaves: cut the leaves in half down the center, removing the tough stem. You will end up with 2 leaves. Place 2 tbsp meat mixture at the top of each (or as much as you can fit). Roll the leaf into a cone shape with the thicker part of the leaf at the base and stuff the wide part into the top. As you stuff your cabbage, arrange the rolls in the same pot you used to cook the cabbage. Place the cabbage rolls into the pot, wedging together tightly. Depending on the size and shape of the pot and the number of cabbage rolls, you may need to layer them. How to Make the Sauce: Mix the remaining carrots with the sliced tomatoes and cream. Pour the sauce over them. The sauce should percolate through and completely cover the cabbage rolls. If it doesn’t, add a bit of water or tomato juice to make the sauce thinner. Cover the arranged rolls with the remaining cabbage leaves. Bake for 2-3 hours at 350 °F. Check on the level of the sauce from time to time. If it is getting low, add a bit of water to keep the edges of the holubtsi from burning. When cooked, let sit for 15 minutes. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and dill or parsley.