1. Rinse and scrub the cabbage clean.
2. Slowly immerse it (covered) in a large pot of boiling water and parboil for 5 minutes until leaves are pliable.
3. Drain in a colander and allow to cool off a bit.
4. Meanwhile, prepare your filling. With most of the fillings, you can also make them up to 24 hours in advance and store in the refrigerator. As an added bonus, this will make the filling firmer, helping you stuff the leaves more easily.
5. With your fingers, peel off the leaves from the head, keeping the best/biggest/intact leaves for stuffing. (Chop up the rest of the leaves and the core of the cabbage. You will use them for the filling in some of the recipes, or they make a lovely coleslaw!)
6. Place the selected leaves on a paper towel and pat dry.
7. Now use a sharp paring knife to shave down the tough, thick white stem at the base of each leaf until it's no longer thicker than the rest. Do not cut through the leaf itself. This step is critical because the tough stems require two hours of cooking in order to become tender, and are best left out of the rest of the dish, which requires less cooking time.
8. With the curl of the leaf facing up, start stuffing. Place max 1/4 cup of filling at the center of the leaf, leaving about a 1⁄2-inch edge. It's important not to overstuff because you don't want the filling to leak out. Also remember not to roll or pack too tightly, and to leave some space in between rolls in the baking pan, as the filling will expand during cooking.
For a tidy result, you can start by rolling the bottom of the leaf to cover the filling, then fold the left edge in before you roll the rest up. Now tuck the right edge into the center filling, et voila'!
Optional: I also tie my rolls with kitchen string before cooking them, which I remove before serving.
Tip: You can also go all out and use blanched chives to tie the rolls, which will add a nice and edible decorative touch!
Always place the rolls seam-side down with any other ingredients in your baking dish.
Cabbage rolls freeze and reheat perfectly. They can and should be made in advance.
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