Hungarian Cabbage Rolls

A very full pot of cabbage rolls ready to eat.

My father came to America in 1957 from Hungary. He was 19. Five years later he married an American woman just out of college. They had four children together. I came last.

We weren't too involved in the Hungarian community, sadly. But here and there I picked up Hungarian cookbooks, talked with women who cook the cuisine and in my early 20's I got a job at an  Eastern European restaurant based more on my surname than my actual experience. Use any advantage you have, they say.

It was at that restaurant I learned to make cabbage rolls, pierogies, and other foods found in the old Soviet Block. It was a Russian Tea Room style place. I have had dreams of owning a similar restaurant ever since.

More recently, I met up with a woman connected to the local Hungarian Church where the sell traditional sausages once a year for a fundraiser. I bought sausages to share with my family. But instead of just handing them some frozen meat I thought I'd make a meal and enjoy their company too.

For the meal we had mild Hungarian sausage and Hurka (liver and rice sausage) cooked with onions. I made cabbage rolls, cucumber salad, boiled potatoes and a fantastic stacked crepe cake. AKA Surprise Cake. 
It's a pretty little ganache covered cake.

The layers are a pretty surprise!

 Rakott Palacsinta is the Hungarian name. This recipe and directions by Katherine Martinelli is clearer and more informative than any I've found. If you like crepes and chocolate and apricot and almonds make this dessert. It's lovely and only mildly fussy. I like a little fussy in my cooking. 

Below find my Cabbage Roll [Töltött Káposzta] Recipe. There are many variations on a theme but what Hungarian rolls will have is sour kraut, paprika, and sour cream. (Meat and cabbage too, of course.)

Cabbage Rolls
 Makes 20 rolls
1 big head of cabbage
2 pounds ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1 cup rice, measured after it is cooked. Use a fluffy-not sticky rice.
1 egg
1 onion, diced finely
1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon hot Hungarian paprika
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

For the sauce
1-24 ounce bag sour kraut, drained and rinsed.
1/2 pound of smoked meat that can be cut up. I used bacon ends.
1 onion, diced
1 small green pepper, diced
2 Roma tomatoes or canned tomatoes
16 ounces V-8 juice
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon hot Hungarian paprika
2 teaspoons salt

To thicken
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons flour

Give yourself plenty of time these are a labor of love.

Cook the rice.
Core the cabbage. Dunk it into a pot of boiling water. Hold the head under the water cored side up. Watch for the bubbles to stop. As the outer leaves loosen remove them from the head. Allow them to cook in the water a minute or two longer. Put the cooked leaves into a bowl of icy water as you pull them out of the pot. You'll need 20 ish leaves. The biggest outer leaves can be cut in half to make two rolls. Cook the center of the cabbage until tender. This will be added to the sauce.

With a paring knife remove the part of the rib that stands taller than the rest of the leaf.

In a bowl combine the ground meat, rice, egg, onion, and seasoning. Mix well.

To fill the leaves place a leaf cup side up on the work surface, with the bottom-where it was connected to the core, closest to you. Put about 3 tablespoons of meat filling in the leaf. Roll up the bottom, both side and place it on the seam. Think little burrito package. If you split a larger leaf, roll from the side, not the bottom. They aren't as pretty but they'll taste just fine.

In the pot that will hold everything start the sauce. Start with the smoked fatty meat or oil. Soften the onions, peppers, and garlic. Add seasoning, cut up unused cabbage, and sour kraut. Heat through. Remove half the mixture. Nestle half the cabbage rolls into the remaining sauce. Top with the sour kraut mixture you removed. Nestle the rest of the cabbage rolls into pot. Pour V-8 juice over it all. Bring to simmer and cook 2 hours on the stove top, covered. If they are too wet after two hours simmer with out the lid 20 minutes more.
Ready to have V-8 poured on top.

When the rolls are done remove them temporarily to a platter. In a small bowl combine the sour cream, milk, and flour. Add 1/4 cup of sauce to the sour cream mixture, stir well. Pour the sour cream mixture into the sauce. Stir until thick and bubbly. Nestle the cabbage rolls back into the sauce. Simmer gently 10 minutes. Serve.
I forgot to take a picture before I tucked into my plate! Sorry.
Do you cook the food of your national heritage? What's your favorite dish?