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Russian golubtsy that are known in America mostly as Polish golabki, are simply cabbage rolls with meat and  are  popular in many European countries. I consider golubtsy one of Russian traditional and loved dishes. It takes some effort and patience, but the payoff is just great: steaming hot rolls with most delightful meat filling accompanied with a dollop of cold sour cream. One couldn't wish for a better Sunday dinner. Ready for a challenge? Then follow me to my kitchen ...

What you need:
1 big loose head of white cabbage
1 lb ground beef, pork or lamb
1 + 1 onions, chopped
1/2 cup rice pre-boiled in 2 cups of water
1 small carrot, finely grated
2 big ripe tomatoes, diced
3 tbsp olive oil
Red pepper (optional)
Filtered water, about 1 - 1 1/4 cups
1 big pot to boil cabbage
1 frying pan 
1 Dutch oven or big shallow pot with lid
Preparation time: about 2 hours
Feeds 6-8 people, depending on appetite

To be able to wrap meat in cabbage leaves you have to slightly boil the cabbage to soften it.

In a big pot bring water almost to a boil. Cut (slightly, but do not tear off from the head) a few cabbage leaves near the root and place the whole cabbage head in hot water. It should be covered completely. If your pot is not big enough, you have to carefully turn the cabbage head to soften all sides.  Let it boil on low heat for a few minutes, then using two forks, turn the cabbage head in a handy position to cut off the leaves that are already softened. Set them on a separate dish to cool. Do this with the rest of the leaves while you can: the smallest leaves are too wrinkled to be used for rolls, so the center part of cabbage head is usually discarded. My cabbage yielded 19 usable pieces.

When the leaves are cool enough to handle, cut off the thickest parts of the leaves with a sharp knife. Tap the leaves dry with paper towel.
Rinse uncooked rice in cold water, drain, and boil for 7 min in 2 cups of water - rinse in cold water and drain, then use in the filling.
Prepare the filling: mix well meat, rice, 1 chopped onion, salt, black pepper, carrot, 1/2 cup water.

 To make a roll, place a cabbage leaf on a board, scoop out about 2 tbsp meat, and place as you see on the picture. Then fold and press slightly the leaf at the thickest part nearest to you, then fold the sides, then roll it away from you, and form a  tidy pocket.

If there are holes in a leaf, don't worry, just cover them from the inside with leftover cabbage leaves - mend them, so to speak. Nobody will ever notice. :)

Make sure that the final flap is not hanging, but is nicely bent.
Your rolls will be of different  sizes and shades of green , the biggest will hold about 2 tb spoonfuls of meat, the smallest 1 tb spoonful. You can put more meat or less, but keep in mind that you have meat and a side in one here, so I'd prefer more cabbage. But tastes differ.
Some people also serve the rolls with potatoes,  but to my taste they seem unnecessary here.

Heat oil in the pan on medium heat, and caramelize your rolls on both sides, begin with the side where the end flap is, to secure the shape of the roll and prevent unwrapping.

Traditionally the rolls are just boiled, but this is how they were cooked in my family. Caramelized cabbage gives the dish a completely different aroma and taste.

Make a bed of 1 onion and diced tomatoes in a shallow pot with lid, add salt and red pepper, if you wish. Transfer caramelized rolls on the bottom and arrange in an overlapping manner rather tightly, with the final flap facing down.

Fill the pot, sprinkle with salt, add about 1/2 - 2/3 cup boiling water, cover, put on medium to low heat, and simmer for about 1 hour. The cabbage must be completely soft, and the meat will be ready by that time. Try not to overcook cabbage.

Three small golubtsy did not fit in my pot - I had to cook them separately.

Now they are ready. :) As you can see, they lost some color and shape, but are so-o-o tasty.
Serve them hot with chilled sour cream atop.

Bon appétit!

Tags:    cabbage main course meat Russian traditional
Summary: a Russian traditional main course recipe
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