Stuffed Cabbage is one of my all time favorite dishes. The recipe takes some time, but it's so worth the effort. Ground beef is mixed with rice and vegetables, rolled up in cabbage leaves, and cooked for several hours in a sweet and sour tomato sauce until it is juicy and tender and irresistibly delicious.
Russian stuffed cabbage is a great dish to make for a crowd. You can cook it ahead and it tastes even better the next day. One cabbage roll makes a great appetizer. Two or three are a perfect meal.
Stuffed cabbage evokes thoughts of my grandmother Fay (pictured with me, below, circa 1963), who immigrated from Russia in the early 1900's and eventually landed in the Catskill Mountains of NY, where she and my Grandpa Myles ran a small hotel called Sunny Oaks (pictured below).
Sunny Oaks was one of the many Jewish summer resorts in that region of upstate New York, which came to be known as The Borscht Belt. Growing up, I spent at least one happy week every summer at the hotel, swimming, playing scrabble and shuffleboard, and enjoying the delicious food.
We'd make the 2-hour drive from Manhattan to Woodridge. I remember my excitement when the roads got hilly and we'd start to see bungalow colonies and I knew we were just minutes from Sunny Oaks.
Upon my arrival, my grandmother would barely even say hello to me before pulling me around by the hand to show me off to everyone. Most guests were summer regulars so they'd marvel at how much I'd grown and many of them would grab me by the cheeks and give a good squeeze and say something in Yiddish.
After a while, I'd be led to a table in the empty dining room and presented with a huge plate of my favorite food in the world - Grandma's Russian stuffed cabbage. Typical of a Jewish grandmother, she would watch me eat, clearly thrilled by my every bite.
Meals at Sunny Oaks were announced over a PA System just like in the movies "Dirty Dancing" and "A Walk On The Moon" . "Ladies and gentlemen, dinner is now being served in the main dining room. Will everyone please come in for dinner". That message was repeated twice and slowly the 100-seat dining room would fill up.
It was a tough crowd. Seemed like almost everyone had a food sensitivity and a special request, but my grandmother made it her business to make everyone happy. That is probably the reason that the same crowd came back to Sunny Oaks summer after summer for over 60 years.
I wish I had been interested in cooking back when Grandma Fay was still alive and busy in the Sunny Oaks kitchen. But the good news is that my Aunt Cynthia, who inherited the hotel from my grandparents, recently dug up the old file containing all of the hotel recipes, and sent it to me.
I probably won't be blogging about "Beef Tongue Polonaise" or "Boiled Beef Flanken", both popular items on the Sunny Oaks menu back in the day. But there are some real treasures in that file, including Fay's Russian stuffed cabbage recipe. I hope you enjoy it!
WHAT TO SERVE WITH STUFFED CABBAGE
One note of interest: Russia has one of the coldest average temperatures of any country in the world. The long cold winter impacts the type of crops that are grown. Cabbage prefers a cool growing season and is one of the world's hardiest vegetables. It's not surprising that cabbage is a popular vegetable in Russian cuisine.
Here's the recipe for Russian Stuffed Cabbage. If you make this, please come back to leave a star rating and a comment. I'd love to know what you think!Print