At 85, my Mom still makes a big batch of gołobki on a regular basis and frequently gifts the extra to family and lucky friends. Her mechanic is a frequent recipient of a batch and thus he takes excellent care of her elderly Taurus sedan. This is not exactly my Mom’s recipe, but it is darn close. It omits the Lipton Onion Soup mix in favor of nicely browned onions with a little garlic and a bay leaf–and lots of pepper. It’s well worth doubling this recipe for a crowd. Once you’ve made the filling and boiled the cabbage leaves, the hard work (such as it is) is done.
3 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
1 bay leaf
1 large clove garlic, smashed slightly with the flat of a knife and peeled
Salt and pepper, to taste (my taste is a lot of pepper)
1.5 pounds lean ground beef
2/3 cup brown rice, uncooked (White rice is fine, too.)
1 large cabbage
- Preheat the oven to 350°.
- Put a large pot of water on to boil. Core the cabbage. Put a colander in the sink. When the water boils, lower the cabbage into the water. As the outer leaves cook, they will peel off easily from the head. Remove each leaf one by one and put in the colander to drain. You don’t need to really cook the leaves, just soften them a bit to make them pliable. Leaves that are smaller than 4 inches in diameter are too small for ł. Set the center leaves aside for a later use, i.e., sauteed cabbage or an addition to soup.
- Put the bacon pieces in a small frying pan and cook until brown and crisp. Remove the cooked bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside in a large bowl. Pour off all but 1-2 tablespoons of bacon fat and reserve the rendered fat.
- Sautee the onions, garlic and bay leaf in the pan. Season with salt and lots of pepper. When the onions are nicely browned, discard the garlic clove and bay leaf and put the onions in the bowl with the bacon pieces.
- Add the ground beef and rice. Mix well. Add a little more salt, if needed.
- Use a small roasting pan or shallow 2-3 quart Pyrex dish. Brush half of the reserved bacon fat on the bottom and sides of the dish.
- Pick up a leaf of cabbage. Trim the thick “vein” at the base of the leaf so that it is the same thickness as the rest of the leaf. Holding the leaf open like a cup and with the base away from you, put a ball of filling into the center of the leaf (depending on the size of the leaf, anywhere from ¼ to 1/3 cup; use your judgment). Fold the far end toward you, and then the sides in toward the center. Roll the whole package over tightly, like a burrito. Place the gołobek seam side down in the pan. Continue rolling, placing the gołobki tightly together so that they don’t unroll while cooking.
- Brush the rest of the bacon fat over the tops of the gołobki. Add water to cover. Place any unused outer leaves over the top of the gołobki and cover tightly with a lid or aluminum foil.
- Bake for 75 minutes and test for doneness. Note: Brown rice takes a lot longer to cook than white rice. Just sayin’.
- Serve with ketchup or a mild tomato sauce.
- Gołobki freeze well and keep for several days in the refrigerator. To reheat, fry them gently in a pan with butter.