Greek-Style Cabbage Rolls: Lahanodolmades
These Greek Cabbage Rolls are classic comfort food that transports me back to my childhood. The hearty, yet light, rice, and meat filling is wrapped with tender cabbage leaves and cooked in a refreshing, creamy lemon sauce. Guaranteed to warm your soul on a cold winter's day!
- 1 large cabbage, stem removed
- 2 carrots
- 3 celery ribs
- For the filling:
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup water (or more)
- 1 small onion
- 1/2 cup uncooked white rice
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- 1/2 cup chopped dill
- 1 teaspoon salt
- black pepper to taste
- 5-6 cups chicken broth or water
- For the egg-lemon sauce:
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
Boil the cabbage in salted boiling water with the cored part facing down. Flip it around and boil an additional 10-15 minutes until the leaves begin releasing easily and have become somewhat translucent. They should not be overcooked to the point where they become soft and mushy.
Pull the leaves out as they detach from the cabbage and set them in a colander to drain.
When you peel off most of the leaves and you get to the core with the smaller leaves it will be difficult to remove the leaves without ripping them. At this point just remove the small bunch with the core attached and place in the colander. It will be easier to separate them once they are cooled. Most of these leaves will be too small to use for the cabbage rolls so they will be used as the bed or cover.
Roughly chop the carrots and celery into large chunks and place them in the bottom of your pot. These will be the bed that the cabbage rolls will sit on so that they do not come in direct contact with the heat and cook more gently. This will prevent them from falling apart while simmering.
Use some of the small and shredded pieces of cabbage to cover the vegetables.
Place half of the onion in a food processor and pulse until it is finely chopped. Add the parsley and puree until smooth. Place this mixture in a large mixing bowl.
Pulse the remaining half of the onion until finely chopped. Add the dill and puree until smooth. Place this mixture in the mixing bowl.
Add the ground beef, salt, pepper, rice, olive oil, and water to the pureed herbs and onion and mix well to combine. The best way to do this is by hand. Break up the ground beef and add 1/4 cup more water if the mixture is not very moist.
A very moist, wet filling will make the best tasting cabbage rolls.
To assemble the cabbage rolls, take a cabbage leaf and lay it flat on your work surface. Cut of the thickest part of the stem. Place a full tablespoon of the filling in the center, fold the left and right sides of the leaf over the filling then roll it up.
Continue the same process adjusting the amount of filling depending on the size of the cabbage leaves (smaller leaves get less filling). Keep in mind that when the filling is cooked, the rice will expand a bit. Roll them up tight but giving enough room for the rice to expand.
Some leaves may be very large. You can cut those in half and use them to make 2 rolls.
Layer the cabbage rolls in the pot fitting them snug together.
Cover them with cabbage leaves.
Place a plate over them inverted. This will keep them in place so that they do not fall apart while cooking.
Pour enough water or chicken broth to come right up to the plate.
Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30-45 minutes.
Carefully remove the plate and the extra cabbage leaves from the pot.
Combiner the egg yolks, cornstarch, and lemon juice in a bowl. Whisk well until smooth.
Add some of the hot broth to the egg mixture. Whisk well.
Season with some more salt and pour the egg-lemon mixture into the pot. Carefully shake the pot from side to side to distribute the egg-lemon sauce.
Bring to a boil. Taste the seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Remove from heat and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. The sauce will thicken as it sits.
Serve with some warm toasted bread.