Not one drop of Irish blood runs through my body, but every year on St. Patrick's Day, I am Irish. My desire to be Irish began during my grade school days in a St. Paul suburb where the teachers advised their students that only those who were Irish could wear green. The others must wear orange. That meant no fluffy little green shamrock pin for me.
Everything changed when I went into the city of St. Paul for high school. Suddenly, everyone was Irish on St. Patrick's Day. I was encouraged to wear green. My mom made a little green gathered skirt that I wore as I marched in the big rollicking parade to celebrate the day of green in St. Paul. My Irish friend would invite me to her house to feast with her family on corned beef and cabbage that her mom made. It was a day of merriment that I looked forward to each year.
I still enjoy being Irish on St. Patrick's Day. I sometimes make corned beef and cabbage, although I never boil it on the stove. I roast it slowly in the oven with a little bit of water along with onions, carrots, cabbage and potatoes. This year, I'll be preparing the meal with a bit of a twist. The corned beef will once again simmer slowly in the oven with a few of the traditional vegetables. At serving time, the corned beef will be tucked alongside some Potato-Stuffed Cabbage Rolls.
I grew up watching my grandma and my mom make Hungarian-style stuffed cabbage. Large leaves from a head of cabbage would be rolled up with a stuffing of ground meats, onions and rice and simmered slowly in a pot with tomato sauce. It was always a treat on a cold winter day.
Potato-Stuffed Cabbage Rolls are reminiscent of those from my childhood. Filled with mashed potatoes that have been swirled with caramelized onions and a bit of horseradish, the plump bundles are slathered with sour cream, then baked until they are steaming hot.
A head of cabbage is simmered just long enough for the outer leaves to become soft enough to roll up. The remaining cabbage is chopped and sautéed before being mixed into the horseradish and onion spiked mashed potatoes.
The cabbage rolls can be assembled, but not baked, the day before serving. Since St. Patrick's Day falls on Monday this year, gather the family and make the rolls on Sunday afternoon. Just cover them and store in the refrigerator. It's best to bring them to room temperature the next day before baking.
Potato-Stuffed Cabbage Rolls are perfect with corned beef. You and your family will want to celebrate St. Patrick's Day every month. But they're not just for St. Patrick's Day. Serve them with thick pork chops and an apple salad for a great meal any day.
Potato-Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
1 large head green cabbage, 2-1/2 to 3 pounds
1 tablespoon canola oil plus extra for greasing baking dish
1 medium onion, cut in half lengthwise, then sliced crosswise
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
2/3 cup water
2 pounds red potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 bay leaf
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
3/4 cup milk or half-and-half
2 tablespoons bottled horseradish
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup sour cream
Using a large pot, bring 6 to 8 quarts of water to a boil. While water is heating, remove any discolored or tough leaves from the head of cabbage. Cut out the core. Gently drop head of cabbage into the boiling water. As cabbage simmers, use tongs to gently pull 6 to 8 outer leaves from the cabbage. Allow the leaves and the rest of the head of cabbage to cook for 5 minutes. Transfer leaves to a bowl of ice water so they stop cooking. Place cooled leaves on paper towels to drain. Place head of cabbage in colander to drain. Chop enough of the cabbage to equal 3 cups. Set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onions to hot oil. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and golden brown. This could take 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic and caraway seeds and sauté for 1 minute. Add chopped cabbage to the pan along with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Pour 2/3 cup water over all. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until water has cooked away and cabbage begins to brown, about 10 minutes.
While onion cabbage mixture is cooking, cover potato cubes with water in a pot. Add bay leaf. Bring to boil and cook until potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain well. Remove bay leaf and discard.
Mash potatoes by hand with a potato masher. Add butter and stir until melted into the potatoes. Stir in milk and horseradish. Add onion-cabbage mixture to mashed potatoes and stir to blend. Season with salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat the inside of a 9-inch square glass baking dish with canola oil.
Pat each cabbage leaf dry with a paper towel. Cut away the thick core from the bottom of each leaf. Place 2/3 cup of potato mixture on each leaf. Roll up, tucking sides in. Place each bundle, seam side down, in prepared baking dish, snuggling them up together. Spread sour cream over the top. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes until heated through and sour cream begins to turn golden brown. Serve hot. Makes 6 to 8 cabbage rolls.