One of those occasional, special, "all-day" meals was cabbage rolls. After all, it required multiple steps and my mother was not one who enjoyed cooking, so each of those steps must have been just a little bit of torture for her. First she had to cook the rice. Then she had to blanch the cabbage leaves. Then she had to prepare the beef, assemble the rolls, make the sauce... AND THEN she had to let it all cook forever. It looked like a 50-step process to a 10-year-old, so I sure did appreciate cabbage roll night -- especially because it came only once every 6 months. It also made me feel grown up because cabbage rolls were a kind of delicacy at our house since it involved a vegetable I considered to be suspicious and therefore adult-like -- cabbage.
I made a new version of cabbage rolls that does not include rice since we prefer to eat grain-free and low-carb (you could easily add rice to this recipe if desired). I could never quite figure out why people put rice in cabbage rolls anyway -- is it a cheap filler, a binder or just an easy way to add starch to a meal? I also substituted Italian sausage for the beef since the sausage is already perfectly seasoned, so I figure why not take advantage of a good thing. The tomato sauce is simple as well, turning an old classic that I once thought took all day to make into a doable weeknight meal.
Cabbage Rolls with Italian Sausage
8 cabbage leaves
1 T lard or bacon grease
1 small onion, diced
1 egg, beaten
1 lb Italian Sausage, casing removed
2 cups tomato sauce
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 T brown sugar
salt and pepper
1. Fill a large saucepan with water and heat to a gentle boil. Place cabbage leaves, two at a time, into hot water and blanch for 1-2 minutes until softened. Leaves will turn bright green. Remove to a paper towel and repeat until all the leaves have been blanched. Set aside.
2. In a large skillet, heat lard over medium heat. Add onion and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer onions to a large bowl and stir in egg. Add sausage and mix until thoroughly combined.
3. Place the cabbage leaf so the thickest part of the stem is closest to you and the natural curve of the leaf makes a bowl. Place about 1/4 cup of the meat mixture on the leaf, then gently roll up, folding over the sides as if wrapping a present. Secure with a toothpick. Set aside. Repeat with remaining leaves.
4. Return the skillet to the heat. Add tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar, stirring to combine. Gently place cabbage rolls into skillet, spooning some tomato sauce on top. Cover with a lid, reduce heat to low and cook until cooked through, about 30-40 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve.