Monday, September 22, 2008

Holupki, Or Stuffed Cabbage by Any Other Name

For our family dinner party Saturday night there was really no topping the kitchen genius Hubby’s appetizer of quail eggs in shiitake mushroom “nests,” so I didn’t even try. Instead I choose a retro recipe from my childhood that was sure to please our dinner guests (my parents and aunt and uncle) just for the sheer back home nostalgia – holupki.

Holupkis were one of my absolute favorite childhood dishes. I would actually request them for my birthday which is usually the hottest day in June every year. (Thanks, Mom!) Really this is the perfect recipe for fall or winter because it is comfort food all wrapped up in a handy little cabbage package.

I have my own informal recipe for holupki that I picked up from my Mom over the years, but I wanted to see if I could kick that up a notch. My aunt recently lent me “A Book of Favorite Recipes” compiled in 1968 by The Sisterhood of St. John’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Johnson City, New York (one of the “triple cities” that includes Binghamton).

I figured the cookbook must have an authentic recipe and sure enough it did, but the ladies in the “Sisterhood” called them Holubtsi. One of my childhood neighbors who was Polish called them Golumki, but a quick Google search shows the authentic Polish name is Golobki and Holupki is the Slovakian name. Even thought this dish has so many different monikers, the basic ingredients are the same: Cabbage stuffed with a meat and rice mixture and cooked in a tomato based sauce.

Except when it’s not the same. From the “Sisterhood” I learned you can also stuff Holubsti with potatoes or buckwheat. New twists on an old favorite to try! Wow, the kids will be so happy!

Even the rice and meat version gave me some ideas. Since my recipe was kind of plain, I welcomed the idea of adding finely chopped onions and garlic but the recipe still called for cooking the little darlings in tomato soup, which I was trying to get away from. In the end, though, it seemed a little sacrilegious to do away with the tomato soup altogether so I combined one can of it with a large can of crushed tomatoes.

My recipe called for braising the holupki in a Dutch oven on the stove, but I loved the idea of baking them in the oven instead and the Hubby was positive this was the way to go.

Yep. Best holupki I’ve ever made or tasted. During my Google search for the correct spelling of all the different names, I came across a story that shows Holupki are still very popular in Binghamton. In fact the folks at Saint Cyril's Church hold a festival each year where they serve up 10,000 Holupki. That's one church supper I wish I could have attended.

The Recipe:

Makes 12 – 15, serves 6 - 8

1 large head of cabbage
2 pounds ground beef
1 cup cooked rice
1 onion chopped finely
2 cloves garlic minced
2 tablespoons fresh parley
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 10 1/2 ounce can tomato soup
1/2 soup can of water reserved after boiling the cabbage
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes

Remove core from cabbage by cutting around it with a sharp pointed knife. Put cabbage in a Dutch oven and fill with water to cover about one third of the cabbage. Simmer for ten minutes and remove cabbage to cool.

Cook rice at the same time. While cabbage is cooling mix together ground beef, rice, onion, garlic, parsley and 3 tablespoons of the crushed tomatoes. Peel leaves off cabbage and fill with one heaping spoon full of meat mixture on side closest to stem. Tuck bottom of cabbage over once, then fold sides in towards center. Roll it up and place on separate cookie sheet.

When all the meat mixture is used up, slice enough of the remaining cabbage core to lightly line a 13 by 9 baking dish with deep sides. Place holupki on top of sliced cabbage.

In a saucepan, whisk together remaining crushed tomatoes and can of tomato soup. Heat to the simmer point and then pour the mixture over the top. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake at 350 for 1 1/2 hours.

Serve with mashed potatoes drizzled with extra sauce.


Meg said...

I love stuffed cabbage. Every now and then I make a recipe for unstuffed cabbage. Thanks for sharing your recipe!

Laurie said...

Unstuffed cabbage sounds like it would offer the same flavor with alot less work!

Deb in Hawaii said...

Your holupki look delicious and healthier than my Swedish ones with the cream sauce! Although only some of the recipes I found for Kaldomar used a cream sauce. Thanks for visiting my blog!

Laurie said...

Ah, but the Swedish ones on your blog looked so good! Sometimes it's good to just indulge...

Alicia Foodycat said...

I used to work with a Russian woman who would bring these in sometimes. Always topped with a thick layer of sourcream. Yum!

Megan said...

In a desperate search for a holupki recipe to make for my dad's 59th birthday, I came across your "tried, and true" recipe.

I haven't made it yet, but I'm positive that it will be fine. Wanna know why? I was thrilled to read your plug for Binghamton and the Triple Cities. I grew up in Binghamton, and the Triple Cities area is so rich in AUTHENTIC European cuisine: Italian, Polish, Slovakan, Ukranian... absolutely delicious. It's a shame that more people in the "Greater Binghamton" region don't embrace and feel proud of this heritage... I know that I do, and I don't even represent any of the aforementioned nationalities!


Anonymous said...

I was looking for a holupki casserole receipe and found your your comments about binghamton... I live in Endwell, a town next to Johnson City... At St Michael's church on Clinton St. in Johnson City they make holupki and sell it on Friday's eat in or take out. They also were voted the proghi capital of the United States by Mrs T'S in a recent contest....

Jamie said...

I modified my grandma's recipe by adding shredded carrots to the meat mixture (COMPLETELY AWESOME), and replacing half the tomato soup with tomato sauce (or paste and water in a pinch). Funny how small changes can make it so much better, isn't it?