Food, like story, is universal and links all of humanity. I couldn't think of anything more exciting than being a part of a blog that showcases both.
Today I'm going to tell you a Christmas story involving my daughter when she was about three and a half. It will help if you recall childhood Christmas specials, especially ones based on Dr. Seuss stories, (hint: The Grinch). Afterwards I'll share with you one of my family's traditional Ukrainian/Polish recipes.
Around the Christmas holiday I had purchased, from Costco, a leg of lamb much larger than we needed for a single meal. I planned for one roast that night and to cube the rest for stews. Using my silver butcher knife and cutting board I set about cutting the raw meat.
My daughter, ever curious, climbed upon her step stool to watch. I expected her to ask what we were having for dinner.
I was surprised to hear her proclaim as proud as could be, "I know what you're doing, mommy!"
"Really? What's that honey?"
"You're carving the roast beast!"
Now I don't have a recipe for Roast Beast. But I do have a great family recipe for cabbage rolls or Galumpki for the Polish and Halupki for the Ukrainian. This recipe is a bit involved, but bear with me, it's worth it! The leftovers, if you have them, freeze wonderfully.
1 large head of green cabbage
1 lb ground hamburger or veal
1 cup white rice
2 cups of beef broth or water plus 2 beef bouillon cubes
1 generous bunch of fresh dill, finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon of kosher salt (if using table salt, use less than this)
fresh ground black pepper
1 small/medium yellow onion (I omit this due to allergies, and don't miss it)
1 can of tomato paste
Cook the rice with 2 cups of broth or water with bullion in a covered pot for 20 minutes. The rice should be fully cooked.
Meanwhile core the head of cabbage by cutting around the core at an angle until you can pop it out. Make sure to leave the leaves intact. Steam the head of cabbage to loosen the leaves. Do this by placing the head, core side down on a steamer grate or directly on the bottom of a large stock pot. Add 2 inches of water and bring to a boil, cover and steam for 30 minutes (check and maintain the water level).
Chop the onion finely and mix with the hamburger or veal, add salt, pepper, dill and the cooked rice. Mix well. At this point I sometimes fry up a tiny amount to make sure I have the right amount of seasonings and I adjust it at this point.
Now for the stuffing!:
Carefully peel cabbage leaves from the head, be careful, they're hot! Remove any super thick ribs from the cabbage leaves, these would prevent rolling the cabbage and meat together.
With a cabbage leaf facing/curling up, add 1-2 tablespoons of the meat mixture and roll it up just like a burrito. Continue to do this until you run out of cabbage leaves or meat. (If the inner cabbage leaves are not as flexible, cover and steam then until they are soft).
As you finish each roll, place them in a greased 13x9 dish. When the dish is full, open the tomato paste and dap and smear it onto the tops of the cabbage rolls.
Cover the cabbage rolls with foil and place it in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour.
I will then freeze the leftovers by individually wrapping them in plastic and putting them in a freezer bag. I then defrost what I need and pan fry them in olive oil/butter until hot. Browning the cabbage makes it really sweet and is my favorite way to eat Galumpki!