Greek cabbage rolls filled with rice, meat and herbs, topped with a rich egg lemon sauce
This recipe is an example of us taking one for the team. You, dear readers, are our team. That’s right…you. Have we told you lately how happy we are to have you on our team? How happy, and thankful, we are that you have discovered Mia Kouppa?! And this recipe, it’s our thanks to you. We know that many people love Greek-style cabbage rolls, so how could we possibly deny you this recipe, despite the fact that we
hate don’t like them? Keeping this recipe from you would not make us team players. We are better than that (usually).
When we asked our parents to show us how to, one day, make cabbage rolls with egg-lemon sauce, they both got a little cabbage-twinkle in their eyes. It had been years, closer to never, since we had requested this recipe. There was just something ugh about cooked cabbage. So, as soon as we verbalized this request, the necessary ingredients were being pulled out of fridge and pantry, and aprons were being tied around waists. That day, our parents happened to have, not one, but two, heads of cabbage in the refrigerator. Doesn’t everyone? What began as a simple, thought-for-the-future, quickly became supper, and this post. It was all very serendipitous, and very, very emotional. With our meal complete, we settled down to taste these cabbage rolls (how else to write about them?). Suddenly, they became our long lost loves. Where had these rolls been all these years? They are truly, shockingly, delicious. No…more than delicious, they are kind of, phenomenal. The combination of the cabbage and the egg-lemon sauce gives a gift of tart sweetness which is hard to describe, but very easy to enjoy. Thanks team!
Those two heads of cabbage that our parents had in their fridge were of two types. Once again this was very lucky, because it allowed us to see how different cabbages could affect the rolling process. The first cabbage was your run of the mill green cabbage; one which is compact and solid. This is the type of cabbage that you have probably used to make coleslaw. Their second head of cabbage was a savoy cabbage; also known as curly cabbage, this veggie is a little fancier looking than its plain green cousin. More importantly, the leaves are less tightly packed and they are a bit more tender than green cabbage. By the way, both the green cabbage and the savoy cabbage are green!
When we made these cabbage rolls, we used both heads of cabbage. This was helpful not only because we were able to make many rolls, but also because we were able to assess the differences in rolling. The savoy cabbage was slightly easier to deal with.
In order to prepare your cabbage, you must cut away as much of the core as possible without causing the leaves to fall apart. Then you must boil the entire head of cabbage until the leaves can easily be pulled apart and rolled. You may find that you have to boil your cabbage in stages; you may remove several layers of leaves and then find that it is difficult to remove any more. At this point, you can continue to boil your cabbage until the next layer of leaves comes off effortlessly.
In this recipe our parents used an equal amount of ground turkey and ground pork. This combination helped made these cabbage rolls delicious. You can use whatever type of ground meat you like however.
About the rolling. Our mother laughed and laughed and laughed…WITH us of course…not AT us. She, expert that she is, managed to make these adorable little cabbage rolls using 1/2 cabbage leaf each time. Her fingers moved with precision and dexterity. Hers were proportional, tight, and adorable, two-bite cabbage rolls. We, on the other hand, did not master such delicate and perfect rolling. Instead we used an entire cabbage leaf per roll and with somewhat clumsy hands, created substantive, five-bite cabbage rolls. We were a bit worried that the inconsistent sizes would be problematic in the cooking, but our parents assured us that size does not matter (Stop it!). They were, of course, right, and all the cabbage rolls were cooked to perfection.
More about the rolling. Whether you choose to make small or large cabbage rolls, it is important to cut away the hard core which may be present in your cabbage leaf before you add the filling and start to roll. You need the entire leaf to be pliable, so that your cabbage roll is tight. A hard core will prevent this from happening. At the same time, you have to be sure that your roll is not overly tight. If it is, as the rice in the filling cooks and swells, it will tear through the cabbage leaf. The rice needs a some room to grow.
Makes about 60 cabbage rolls of varying sizes.
Mia Kouppa: Cabbage rolls with egg-lemon sauce
- 2 heads of cabbage (we used one green cabbage and one savoy cabbage)
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) Greek olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 12 green onions, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups chopped, flat-leaf parsley
- 1/3 cup finely chopped dill
- 325 grams (about 1 1/2 cup or 3/4 lb) of ground turkey
- 325 grams (about 1 1/2 cup or 3/4 lb) of ground pork
- 2 cups (400 grams) long grain rice, rinsed or soaked
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 heaping teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 cup (125 ml)vegetable oil For the egg-lemon sauce:
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 cup (about 180 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
- chopped dill for garnish
- Begin by preparing your cabbage. Bring a large pot (one big enough to hold your head of cabbage) to a boil. Remove the hard core from your cabbage, but not to the extent that your leaves start to fall apart. You should end up with a cone shaped cut-out where the core used to be. When your water is boiling, add your entire head of cabbage, core side down, and allow to boil for approximately 10 minutes. Turn it over (so the core is facing up) and boil for another 5 minutes. Carefully remove your cabbage from the water and let cool slightly. Begin to carefully remove the cabbage leaves. If they are not soft, return your cabbage to the pot and boil for a bit longer. If you are able to remove some leaves, and then the inner ones appear to be too hard, return the remaining cabbage head to the boiling water.
- Place the cabbage leaves in a colander so that they can drain a little bit, and continue to cool. Repeat the same process with your second head of cabbage.
- Heat olive oil in a large pot and sauté your yellow onion until it is soft and very slightly caramelized. Add the green onions, parsley, and dill to the pot and cook over medium heat for approximately 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add the ground turkey and pork to the pot and stir. Add the rinsed rice and stir until all is well combined. Add salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons (30 ml) lemon juice to your filling mix and give it one final stir. Remove from the heat.
- To make your cabbage rolls take a cabbage leaf and cut away any remaining hard part (usually found in the middle of the leaf and going up about an inch or two). You can decide at this point to cut your cabbage leaf in half (to make small cabbage rolls) or leave it whole (to make larger cabbage rolls). We think the latter is easier.
- Place some filling in the bottom-center of your leaf (where the core would have been). The amount of filling you use will depend upon whether you use an entire or half a cabbage leaf, and on the size of your leaf. Use your judgment. We used about 2 tablespoons of filling for an entire cabbage leaf.
- Use the cabbage leaf to fold over the filling. Bring in the sides, and continue to roll up. It is almost like you are making a burrito. See video here. The key is to make sure that the filling is snug within the cabbage leaf so that it does not fall out. Because the rice will increase in volume as it cooks, do not wrap your cabbage rolls too tightly.
- Repeat until all of the filling, or all of the cabbage leaves, are used.
- When you are done, take a pot large enough to fit all of your cabbage rolls. Pour in 1/2 cup of vegetable oil. Place your cabbage rolls, carefully and snuggly into the pot, layering them as you go. When you have placed all of your cabbage rolls in the pot, you can layer the top with any remaining cabbage leaves.
- Boil some water in a kettle. Pour the boiling water into the pot with the cabbage leaves until they are covered. Bring to a boil.
- When the water comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium. Cook, covered for about 1 hour 20 minutes. You can always remove one at this point to taste it and make sure that the rice is cooked. Remove any top layers of cabbage that you had covering your cabbage rolls and set aside.
- When the cabbage rolls are done, prepare your egg-lemon sauce.
- Separate your eggs. With a hand held mixer or a standing mixer, whisk the egg whites until they are frothy. Add in the egg yolks and continue to beat until well combined. Add in the lemon juice, while whisking slowly.
- Remove one cup of broth which you will find in your cabbage roll pot. While still whisking the egg-lemon mixture, slowly pour in the hot broth. Then, pour this mixture into the pot with your cabbage rolls. Gently shake the pot so that the egg-lemon sauce falls to the bottom of the pot.
- Serve with some fresh dill sprinkled on top. Enjoy.