Golubtsy (Ukr. Holubtsi) — or stuffed cabbage leaves — is a common Ukrainian second course dish. Different variations of cabbage rolls exist all over Middle East and Europe. In Ukraine, holubtsi are prepared with fresh or fermented (soured) cabbage leaves stuffed with meat, grains, vegetables, herbs, and spices. They are cooked and served with a sauce. The ingredients and their proportions vary from region to region, based on availability: poultry, beef, pork, or lamb; rice, millet, corn, or buckwheat; potatoes, beans, mushrooms, onions, or carrots, etc. Holubtsi can be smaller (tiny rolls just like dolma) and larger (using whole cabbage leaf for one roll).
Holubtsi are part of my Ukrainian tasting menu Bud’mo!. This recipe is adjusted to local ingredients and I jokingly describe it as UkrTexMex.
Preparing cabbage leaves can be laborious and time consuming. The same stuffing and cooking methods can be used for bell peppers. Cooking time depends on the size of rolls or peppers.
Place a large pot half filled with water and bring to simmer on high heat. Core the whole cabbage head. Remove green and damaged outer leaves.
Place cored cabbage head into simmering water, bottom up. In 2-3 minutes, 3 outer leaves will become soft and loose. Make sure they are flexible enough to roll, otherwise cook them for another minute or two. Do not overcook. Place soft cabbage leaves in a colander to drain and cool down to room temperature. It takes about 10 minutes to soften all cabbage leaves, layer by layer.
Trim thick center ribs on each leaf. Reserve small cabbage leaves for baking dish lining.
for ancho-tomato sauce (1 1/2 cups)
Remove stems, seeds, and veins inside dry anchos. Break them to smaller pieces. Add hot water and let anchos hydrate for about 25-30 minutes.
Mix all the ingredients in a blender jar and blend into a smooth puree.
In a bowl, measure and add all the ingredients except for water. Mix and knead for a few minutes.
Add water and mix for another few minutes.
to make and cook cabbage rolles
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a deep baking dish with small cabbage leaves. Poor half of the sauce to cover them.
Stuff and roll cabbage leaves. Use about 3 tbsp of stuffing per leaf.
Place cabbage rolls side by side into a baking dish.
Poor the rest of the sauce on top and cover with the rest of small cabbage leaves or foil.
Bake for about 45 minutes, turn off the heat and leave inside the oven for another 15 minutes. They are ready to serve or let them cool to room temperature and refrigerate. Store in a closed container for up to 3 days, reheat before serving. Serve with thin sauce they've been cooked into and/or add some sour cream as a sauce.