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Gołąbki

French and Chinese cuisines have a myriad of carved-in-stone dishes, techniques, and immortalized preparations. Poland and her food have few in comparison. Yes, there are many signature Polish dishes, like the one I offer just below; however, I think of Polish food as more characterized by the ingredients. Heavy on the meat (hey, pork), cream, root vegetables, and signature spices, like marjoram.

Gołąbki (plural), pronounced go-WUMP-ki, is one of the signature Polish dishes; stuffed cabbage, usually topped with a tomato sauce. It means “little pigeon,” more in reference to the shape of these small, tasty packets than the ingredients, although if you’d like to riff on this Polish classic you could use pigeon in the filling. I won’t. When it comes to Polish food I am nostalgic, with memories of childhood deliciousness in my babcia and dziadio’s home in Garfield, New Jersey.

These gołąbki uses a tomato sauce and would be equally delicious with a mushroom cream sauce. I add bacon to my sauce to add porkiness and depth. To allow the bright green cabbage to shine, I nappe the sauce down the center of the arranged gołąbki before serving. You could omit the beef stock and smother the gołąbki with the tomato sauce before putting it in the oven for easier preparation.

Makes 15 Gołąbki

Ingredients

Equipment

Stockpot
Sauté pan
Large mixing bowl
9 x 13 baking dish
Aluminum foil

Ingredients

1 whole head white cabbage, about 4 pounds
Salt (for boiling)

Ingredients for Filling

2 tablespoons fat: bacon fat, lard, or clarified butter preferred, olive oil in a pinch, plus additional as needed
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef
½ pound ground pork
½ cup cooked medium grained rice
1 tablespoon dried marjoram
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
¾ cup beef stock

Ingredients for Sauce

4 slices bacon, chopped into batons
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups crushed tomatoes
1 ½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper

How To Make

1
Read the entire recipe (always a good idea) and gather the ingredients.
2
With a sharp pairing knife, remove the core of the cabbage by cutting around it and discard.
3
Fill the stockpot with water and salt it generously, it should be as salty as the sea. Bring to a boil.
4
Place the whole head of cabbage into the boiling water, cover, and boil for 5 minutes to soften the outer leaves. Remove cabbage and reserve boiling water.
5
Rinse cabbage under cold water to make it easy to handle and carefully peel off as many whole, individual leaves until the leaves become too stiff to work with. At this point return the cabbage to the boiling water for 2 minutes and repeat the exercise until you get about 18 to 20 leaves.
6
Use a pairing knife to shave off the thick part of the center stem to create a somewhat uniform thickness of each leaf. Do not cut through the entire stem. Return leaves to boiling water as necessary to soften, making it easier to shave the center stem.
7
Select the best 15 leaves to stuff and set aside the remaining leaves to line the baking dish.
8
In a large sauté pan, heat the fat over medium heat. Add onions and cook gently until translucent, about seven minutes. Continue cooking to build flavor and color without browning, about an additional five minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about one minute. Add onion and garlic to large mixing bowl reserving the fat in the sauté pan.
9
If needed add additional fat so there is one tablespoon of fat in the sauté pan. Add ground beef and ground pork and cook over medium heat until browned and cooked through, about eight minutes.
10
Add meat to the bowl with onions and garlic. Add cooked rice, dried marjoram, salt, and pepper. Mix well.
11
Preheat the oven to 350º F.
12
Divide the filling into 15 ½ cup portions.
13
Take one cabbage leaf and place ½ cup of filling in the center. Take base of the leaf closest to you and fold it over the filling, pulling it tight back under the top of the filling. Fold the sides over the covered filling and roll the remaining leaf around the folded packet. This is the same technique as rolling up a burrito.
14
Use the reserved cabbage leaves to line the bottom of the baking dish. Place the 15 stuffed cabbages in the baking dish. Add the beef stock. Cover with aluminum foil.
15
Place in oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
16
Over medium heat, sauté the bacon until brown, about seven minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate, reserving the fat in the sauté pan.
17
In the pan with the rendered bacon fat, add the onions and cook until translucent, about seven minutes. Add garlic and cook one minute. Add tomato paste and spread on the bottom of the pan to caramalize for one minute. Add crushed tomatoes, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Cook on medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes to reduce and thicken the sauce.
18
Remove gołąbki from the oven and arrange on serving platter with the sauce spooned over or on the side. Smacznego !
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