Monday, January 16, 2012

Chicken and Brown Rice Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”    ― Julia Child

My less-than-perfectly wrapped cabbage rolls
are delicious AND healthy!

You know, the sign of an honest food blogger is a person whose food DOESN'T always come out picture perfect, and he/she is not afraid to show it to the world.  I know we "eat with our eyes" first but heck, if it tastes good and it fills you up, that's all that really matters, right? 

This recipe tastes fantastic!  It's very economical!

Comfort food gets us through the roughest times.  Whether you had medical procedures like I did this past year, or just have fallen on hard times, a meal like this can really make you smile when you're feeling down.  When it's healthy, all the better because you don't pack on the pounds which can cause other issues in your life.  Stuffed cabbage is total comfort food!

That being said, I am a Slovak/Ukrainian girl by heritage.  You'd think I'd know how to roll a decent stuffed cabbage.  Fact is, I don't make them all that often because my rolling technique is less than perfect, and they take a lot of time.  But I have been so hungry for this Eastern European delight that I had to break down and make some in spite of my cabbage-rolling phobia...  especially with the cold snap we're having down here.

My grandma, Susie, made the absolute BEST stuffed cabbage I ever ate. She would let it braise all day long in a big pot on top of her stove.

My mom always baked her stuffed cabbage. Like me, mom always got the "flavor" down but never Susie's rolling technique.  Mom gave me one great tip; patching. You take little bits of cabbage and patch up the holes if you can't get it just right. By the time it cooks, nobody really knows the difference. Okay, maybe they do but who cares when you're about to dig in?  You are going to end up putting the kraut on the potatoes anyway.   Admit it.  You are!  Why not just serve this family style and let everyone have at it? 

I guarantee you, my Aunt Kata never "plated" stuffed cabbage; it was every man, or woman, for themselves!

And yes, I used that "well-seasoned" 50 plus-year-old roaster with the one handle missing on the rack.  You've seen this pan before in my posts.  It was my mom's, so it's dear to me.   

You'll notice that I call for a "non-reactive" roasting pan because of the tomato in the recipe. This pan is most likely radio active, as it's so old and stained, but every batch of stuffed cabbage Mom ever made was prepared in this roaster.  Every New Year's Day Pork Roast has been made in this pan since before I was born.  I continue the tradition!

Don't laugh!  I tried!

I used a tip which I received from a fellow food blogger, Steve, over at The Black Peppercorn.  I posted the link to his traditional and properly rolled recipe below.  Thank you Steve. 

Steve freezes the cabbage instead of steaming it.*  I found that this really worked.  The only trouble was I think my cabbage was a little too. - ummm - tightly wrapped.  I had a cabbage that needed therapy?  Well, no.  The outside doesn't always match what you get on the inside - I guess that's true with people too, yes?

I digress -

My quest was to make this recipe lighter.  I used ground chicken and brown rice. 

Now, I won't kid you - there is NOTHING like the original stuffed cabbage and I encourage you to pop on over to Steve's blog and check out his recipe.  Mine looks very "rustic" compared to his.  But this -- this is one great way to satisfy the craving yet keep the calories and fat even lower, not to mention the health benefits of the brown rice.

This recipe yields approximately 14 cabbage rolls:

1 cup Instant Brown Rice
2 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
2 tablespoons Butter
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 1/2 pounds Ground Chicken
1 tablespoon Garlic Powder, plus a teaspoon more, divided
1 tablespoon Onion Powder
2 tablespoons dried Oregano, plus a teaspoon more, divided
1/2 tablespoon Salt
1/2 tablespoon Black Pepper
1/2 tablespoon Paprika (I used Spanish)
14 Cabbage Leaves, core removed and separated, plus two cups chopped Cabbage*
1 cup Diced Tomato with Oregano and Garlic
23 ounces Tomato Juice
1 teaspoon Caraway Seeds (optional)
1 27 ounce can Sauerkraut (I don't drain it for this dish)

Other:  Butter Flavored Cooking Spray

If using frozen cabbage, defrost at least 8 hours before using and core.

If steaming cabbage, steam leaves only one hour before cooking for about 10 minutes until softened.  Let cabbage cool. 

Prepare rice using the chicken broth, butter and olive oil per package directions, except do not add any salt.  Note that the extra oil keeps the rice from sticking together.

Let rice cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine prepared rice with ground chicken, one tablespoon of the garlic powder, the onion powder, two tablespoons of oregano, salt, pepper and paprika.  Mix together well.  Make 14 even-sized ovals out of the mixture and place one end of the cabbage, rolling and tucking the sides into the ends.

Place rolls in the bottom of a non-reactive roasting pan sprayed with butter flavored cooking spray.  Top with chopped cabbage.

Top the rolls and cabbage with the cup of tomato, the tomato juice, the remaining garlic powder, oregano, and the caraway seeds.

Cover with lid of roaster or tin foil.  Bake for one hour.

Add sauerkraut and kraut juice to pan on top of cabbage.

Bake, uncovered, for forty-five more minutes. 

Baste kraut with juices from pan.  Increase heat to 375 degrees.  Once the heat has risen, bake, uncovered, for another ten minutes until kraut is lightly browned. 

Remove from oven and cover for at least fifteen minutes before serving.

Total "comfort food"
when served with skinny mashed potatoes!

Want a thicker sauce?  Whisk in a tablespoon of cornstarch into the tomato juice before topping the rolls and cabbage. 

Suggestion:  Serve with skinny smashed red potatoes flavored with Horseradish.

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