This little recipe took a couple tries to get it right, but I’m pretty pleased with the results. I was getting tired of lentils, big surprise, but in particular I was getting tired of lentils as part of a vegetarian meal. I wanted something that felt fancy and rich, but still helped me chip away at my massive box of lentils. Making these stuffed cabbage rolls a second time was good for me because, on the second go-around, I figured out how to keep from dirtying every pot and pan in the house and how to simplify the sauce and the side dish for these delicious little cabbage rolls.
One thing that I really love is that this dinner, has that ‘Sunday-Supper’ feel to it in the sense that it takes a while to put together but it tastes like a million bucks and makes your whole house smell like braised wonderfulness. It’s super-tasty but at the same time, it stretches out a mere half pound of ground sausage into a protein and veggie packed dish. I hope you like it!
Sausage and Lentil Stuffed Cabbage – served with buttered herb noodles
Serves 4 – cost approx $1.41 per serving, including noodles
- 1 cup dry lentils ($.50)
- 1/2 cup pearl barley ($.15 – this is a good item to look for in the bulk aisle!)
- 1 head cabbage ($.99 I got a great deal!)
- 4 slices bacon, divided use? kinda… ($.44)
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 lb country sausage – this is the leftover half of my sausage roll from the pasta night! ($.99)
- 3 eggs ($.45)
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, you know, the kind that comes in a green can, not the kind that comes in a big wheel… ($.50)
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/4 cup fresh herbs or 2-3 Tbs dry – I used some fresh thyme and sage ($0 from my Daddy’s garden!)
- 2 cups stock – any type!
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1 cup sour cream ($.35 – look for ‘it’s about to expire’ discounts!)
Budget an hour or so of your time to put this dish together and another hour for it to braise in the oven. This isn’t a quick week-night meal to throw together. I would strongly advise reading this recipe all the way through. Start by putting the lentils and barley in a small sauce pot and covering with water. Simmer about half an hour or until the lentils are fully cooked. I’ve noticed that they seem to cook at a similar rate… When done, rinse in a colander and put in a large bowl that you will later assemble your filling in.
While the lentils and barley are cooking away, go ahead and prepare your cabbage. Blanching and shocking it is absolutely necessary. (I tried to be lazy and skip this step, it’s bad, don’t do it!) This process makes the cabbage leaves pliable and easy to fill with stuffing and they seem to cook much better and more evenly when you stuff them and bake them. First, get your set up going: one pot salty, boiling water, one large bowl salty, icy water and a landing place for your blanched and shocked cabbage, I used a casserole dish lined with a tea towel. Like so.
Next, cut around the base/stem of the cabbage with a paring knife. Gently pull apart all the leaves until you have a nice big pile of them. Like so.
Then, start to move the cabbage leaves, 3-5 leaves at a time, through the blanching and shocking station. First, you dunk them in the boiling water for 2-3 minutes, then into the ice bath for a minute or so then into the resting/draining spot. Ta-da!
[Unnecessary, but dishes/time saving note: keep your pot of hot water on hand for cooking the noodles in later! Also, use the casserole dish to build your stuffed cabbages in later.]
Ok, so by now we’ve got blanched and shocked cabbage leaves, just begging to be stuffed. So let’s make some filling to oblige them. In a large saute pan, cook up the bacon and set it aside for it’s ultimate destiny, being crumbled over the top of your finished dish. Saute up the onion and garlic in the bacon fat for about 5 minutes and then scoop into the bowl with the lentils and barley. Add in all the other ingredients in that large set (the eggs, ground sausage, herbs, etc…) and mix thoroughly. In that same saute pan, cook up a little bit and taste for salt and adjust the seasonings as necessary. Hang onto that pan for making the sauce at the end.
Now, onto assembly! (Now is a good time to preheat your oven to 350F)
Put about half a cup of filling in each leaf and roll them up like little burritos. It made about 16 cabbage rolls for me.
Ho-kay, now pour in 1-2 cups stock. The level of liquid should come up about half way up the side of your beautiful little cabbage rolls. Cover and pop into a 350F oven for 45 – 60 min of braising time.
Last step, I promise, when the cabbage rolls all cooked up, gently drain out the delicious stock into the reserved large saute pan. Don’t worry about getting it all, just what you can without accidentally dumping the cabbage rolls onto your stove top. Reduce by half over high heat, then turn to medium and stir in the sour cream and paprika. Simmer to combine for 2 minutes, taste and add salt as necessary. Pour your delicious sauce over the little cabbage bundles of joy and garnish with the reserved crumbly bacon. Now the clouds should part and a chorus of angles should sing merrily while shining heavenly light down upon your creation. Serve with hot buttered noodles, enjoy!