I can’t call this gołąbki because I felt like I sufficiently interpreted these such that I might get chided by a Pole. Namely, in that I didn’t include rice. Next time I will, I swear (but these are so good I’m not sure I want to change them…). I’ll try to make my grandma proud. I also feel funny because I’m no expert in Polish cuisine – it’s not exactly the most popular ethnic cuisine, with hipsters flocking to little holes-in-the-wall to debate the best pierogi in town. There are actually kind of a few restaurants here, but I haven’t made my way over to them yet. Most of them look kinda crappy. Like, trying to be cool when it’d just be better to be a no frills, oblivious to modern tastes kinda place and have really good, all homemade food. Ugh, that reminds me of a Mexican restaurant nearby that has an ADA-certifited heart-healthy menu or some junk. Stay the hell away from that place. Growing up, my mom used to make gołąbki all the time, but I was a kid and I was picky and I didn’t eat anything that wasn’t Polly-O string cheese. So, I’m kind of starting from scratch here, with nothing much to compare to. I’ve mostly seen these little pigeons (that’s what gołąbki means) with a tomato sauce, but both Polish cookbooks I have seemed to be sauce-ambivalent and said you could serve it with a number of sauces. So, I picked a mushroom sauce because I’ve been in the mood for mushrooms lately. Again, it’s interpreted – I didn’t want to use cream. If you happen to be Polish (or another Eastern European) and make these – what sauce do you like to make for them?
I feel sad that my grandma didn’t pass on her Polish traditions or language or recipes. On the one hand I’m really not one for blind traditions, or tradition for tradition’s sake. But on the other, I’d like to at least have been able to evaluate which traditions would have been interesting for me to adopt. And I’m also fascinated with old cultures that have ways of doing things that have stood the test of time for a reason – they’re healthful, they’re effective, whatever. Her parents emigrated from Poland and settled in southern Illinois before WWI. I never met either one, which is sad, but my mom can tell stories about them. My dad’s side of the family has been here for a long time, so there aren’t any Old World remnants. Maybe I should just go to Poland and stay in some old person’s house and learn how to cook from them. I have a Ukrainian friend who is so much fun to talk to about this stuff. I’m totally going to Eastern Europe/Russia with him and his family some time. What a blast it’ll be.
Even though this seems like a fairly simple meal, it takes some time and is kind of a weekend one. I guess most of my posts are weekendy meals, because well, I make them on weekends when I’m not rushing home from the gym half-starved and clawing at the fridge for the first thing I can eat. I almost never have time to take pictures and such on a weekday. And especially now that it’s dark at 4pm. Ugh. And so on the weekends I’m in the mood to make more elaborate meals. You’ll have tons of leftovers from this, so it’s a good thing to start the week off with anyway. In fact, I had more meat stuffing than I could fit into my cabbage leaves, so I have bonus leftovers.
polish cabbage rolls
serves about 6
note: depending on the size of your cabbage head, and how much you stuff them, the amount of rolls you’ll get varies. Better to err on the side of a small dish – I used an 8×8. You can double layer the rolls. I had three that I had to make a second layer with.
1 head of cabbage, cored
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 pound of ground beef
1/2 pound of ground pork or veal
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the cabbage head and remove the leaves to a bowl or strainer as they come off the head, about a few minutes for each. Aim for about 12 leaves. When you get to the center and the leaves are small, just take the head out, let cool and chop. Lay in the bottom of a casserole pan.
2. As the cabbage is boiling, heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Add to a bowl and let cool for a few minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Add the beef, pork, and egg to the vegetables, along with salt and pepper, and mix well.
4. Lay each cabbage leaf out on a work surface (shake out any remaining water) and place about 1/3 cup of meat mixture (it’ll vary depending on the size of the leaf) at the base of the leaf. Roll up a little bit, then fold in the sides and continue to roll. Like a mini Polish burrito. Burrito-ski. Place each pigeon tightly in the baking dish, seam side down.
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 pounds of cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1/2 cup beef or chicken broth
1/4 cup white wine
drippings from the cabbage rolls
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1. In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons butter over high heat. When the foaming has just died down, add the mushrooms. Stir frequently. First they will absorb the butter, then they’ll release their liquid, then soak it back up again.
2. Add the garlic, stir frequently for about 30 seconds – 1 minute, until the garlic is golden brown, then turn the heat down to medium. Add the broth and drippings and cook, stirring occasionally until the sauce has reduced. Season to taste.