Slow-cooker Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

As much as I hate to admit it, I’m a big fan of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. Guy Fieri might be the biggest douche bag on TV, in close competition with the Jersey Shore cast. He just bothers me, with his frosted tips and abundance of “bling”.  Plus what kind of chef doesn’t eat eggs? Either way, I like the show because it goes around the country finding the lesser known but equally awesome little restaurants that don’t get the notoriety as a celebrity chefs restaurant. On more then one occasion I’ve seen a diner cooking up cabbage wraps in classic European fashion, and I kept telling myself I need to try making them. Well this past weekend I got around to it, and let me say, they were delicious.

A flavorful combination of meat, cabbage, and sauce that works together perfectly and is super easy to make, especially with a slow cooker. The meat is spiced and mixed with rice, the cabbage soft but crunchy (somehow?), and a sauce that is worthy of making by itself.

Ingredients: 

  • 12 cabbage leaves
  • 1 cup cooked white rice
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup onion, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 pound lean ground beef (no less than 90/10)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 20 ounces tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons worcestershire

I removed the cabbage leaves from the raw head of cabbage but later read a good tip to core it out and steam the leaves. After a point the raw cabbage gets impossible to peel off so I would suggest doing the steam method, but removing raw worked too. In any event, you need to bring a large pot of salted water to a boil to soften the leaves. Drop them in for 2 minutes then remove, strain, and set aside. At the same time, cook your rice making at least 1 cup cooked rice.

In a large bowl, mix the cooked rice, egg, milk, onion, garlic, ground beef and salt and pepper. The reason the beef needs to be so lean is that its wrapped raw, so a fatty mix will make for a very greasy roll.

Next, set out the cabbage leaves and scoop about 1/3 of a cup of meat mixture into the lower center of the leaf. Roll the bottom of the leaf over the meat, tuck in the sides, then finish rolling over to seal the meat inside. It looks like a mini green burrito.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you roll all the meat and leaves together, load them into the bottom of your slow cooker and start the sauce. Mix the tomato sauce, brown sugar, lemon juice, and worcestershire together and whisk quickly. Pour it over top of the rolls so they are completely covered. Set the slow cooker to 250° and let them cook for 8 hours and enjoy!

 

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Lee’s Meat Market

My job this week and last has had me onsite at the Jefferson Square shopping center off 38th 1/2 street. The posh little center is apparently quite popular as it houses some nick-nack stores, an eye doctor, a hair salon, and Anderson Coffee (good coffee for only $1) among others. But there is also this lunch joint nestled in the corner called Lee’s Meat Market that last week I thought was a butcher shop but have since learned otherwise.

On Monday we were working (I do construction and renovations) outside the shop which happened to be closed for the floating holiday after Easter, but the 50 people who showed up throughout the day did not know that. Literally, from 10am until 5pm people would pull into the parking lot, get to the door, and moan in misery when it was locked. That’s when I knew I had to try it.

We started letting people know it was closed to spare them the extra ten steps from their car to the door. Eventually questions like ‘What’s good?’ came about. Most often the response was the beef tenderloin sandwich. So on Tuesday I by-passed packing a lunch and knew what to order.

It’s a small spot with only about 3 stools at a window bar for eating in, while the rest of the place was packed with people waiting for to-go orders. The line went quick and Lee, the owner who I have found out is very nice and hospitable (discounted iced tea because it was 90 out), took my order. Choose between wheat or sourdough. I went sourdough. Lettuce, tomato, mayo, spicy mustard, and provolone. I also ordered the small side of deviled eggs because I LOVE deviled eggs. Creamy and delicious and heavy on the mustard just like I like them. They were gone before the sandwich came out the window.

This was one of the best beef sandwiches I’ve ever had, better than famous Kelly’s roast beef back in New England. The meat was so tender and juicy and cooked to a nice medium rare. It was full of flavor and being tenderloin it didn’t come with the stringy gristle that is so annoying in most roast beef. Past the beef, the sourdough was fresh, although not as tangy as most sourdough, and the veggies were crisp and fresh. The spicy mustard gave a perfect kick to balance the whole thing out. Oh yea, it comes with a generous handful of potato chips which, if you are like me, you stuff into the sandwich for each individual bite. 🙂

Today I was excited to try it again, but being adventuresome I decided to expand my knowledge of the menu and be bold. I went with the fresh chicken salad sandwich, again on sourdough, with lettuce, tomato, onion, and provolone. It also, was magnificent. Chunks of chicken mixed with celery, red grapes, and chopped pecans mixing together for a salty-sweet-soft-and crunchy experience. To accompany the sandwich, I ordered a pint of tomato basil soup because my eyes are always bigger then my stomach. Although that may be the case, I’m glad I did. It was AWESOME. The soup was thick and creamy and not too salty and had roughly chopped tomatoes floating in the red sea of bliss. To top it off, it came with a side of cheddar toast. Yea, no hint on the menu that it comes with your soup for only $4.50 but boy did my eyes light up when I saw it. Toasty and cheesy and perfect for dunking in the soup. I’m seriously enjoying reliving this meal right now….

In closing, I HIGHLY recommend you try Lee’s Meat Market if you’ve never been. Sandwiches are about $7, and I get the big tea which is a quart of fresh iced tea for $1.50. The menu is huge and as well as food to-go, they do catering and bulk orders of beef, lamb, chicken, etc. So yea, I guess it was a butcher shop after all.

1601 West 38th Street  Austin, TX 78731
(512) 467-6700

www.leesmeatmarket.com

Food Truck Review: Kebabalicious

I’ve fallen in love with many a food truck here in Austin.  But my favorite so far has to be Kebabalicious.  They serve Turkish-style wraps and operate out of two trucks permanently stationed (for the most part) downtown — one at Congress and 2nd (for lunch during business hours), the other at Trinity and 7th (for the late-night drunk crowd).  Fortunately, I fall under both categories and I’ve tried both locations.  The product and service is exceptional and consistent at both.

Kebabalicious is family-owned, locally sourced, and run with real passion.  The wraps are made for you on the spot and truly have thought put into them.  Each bite contains a bit of every ingredient.

I almost always order the same thing — the king-sized (12″) beef/lamb kebab.  I go for the regular size (8″) when I’m lunching, but at night after a few beers, even when Kyle responsibly orders the regular size (and the lady serving us mistakenly assumes the larger one is for him), I need as much Kebabalicious as I can get.  If I can’t finish it that night, into the fridge it goes until I open my eyes the next morning and crawl to the fridge to finish it at 10 AM.  Not even kidding, it is THAT addicting.

The sandwich is wrapped in a perfect, squishy pita bread.  It’s just thick enough to hold its contents without overtaking you with breadiness.  It doesn’t crack when it bends, it’s warm, soft, and supple.  The beef/lamb shawarma appears/tastes to be mixed with falafel or some type of grain.  It’s formed into nuggets that are likely heated through on a griddle — amazingly seasoned, savory, and well-textured succulent meat, no icky bits.  Each nugget is slightly charred and crunchy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside.  Tons of flavor and enjoyable on their own, they melt in your mouth.

Next are the veggies…lettuce, locally grown tomato, red onion, and fresh parsley.  Unlike other shawarma wraps I’ve had, the veggies are consistently fresh and perfect every time.  No haphazardly chopped pieces, no off-tasting onion, just light, crunchy, ripened bites that perfectly complement the heaviness of the bread and meat.

They make these wraps mild, medium, or spicy (adjusted by how much crushed red pepper they shake on).  Spicy is best — nowhere near unbearable or even overpowering, just another note to cut the richness.  I also have them add feta to mine.  Not necessary but a perfect extra indulgence.  Amazing.

Last, but not at all least: the sauces.  The wraps come with two sauces on them, both of which are incredible and balance each other out perfectly.  One is a tzatziki (strained yogurt, cucumber, garlic, olive oil, lemon, dill, often other spices), both creamy and herby, but not too tangy.  Each component of the wrap is seasoned very well and this sauce is no exception.  The coolness of the sauce also brings the heat level down a notch.

And finally, the spicy red sauce.  I would pay serious, serious dough to get just a glimpse of this recipe.  It’s also creamy but slightly heavier than the tzatziki, coral red in color, and appears to be almost a spicy or red pepper aioli.  Phenomenal and adds the perfect amount of richness and a tad of garlicky flavor.

I remember Bobby Flay saying on TV once that the most common problem he notices in sandwiches is that they aren’t sauced enough and are therefore too dry on the mouth.  The Kebabalicious sauces solve that problem all too well and provide the perfect vehicle to marry all of the ingredients together into one phenomenal experience.

The combination of these perfectly orchestrated ingredients create a heavenly, constantly crave-able meal.  I really can’t say enough about how much I would recommend this to anyone who ever has the opportunity to try it.  I also do not ever want to know how many calories are in one of these things.

Another thing to note is that I love how Kebabalicious brings to the masses what could be intimidating to some in such a great way.  What better way to try out a cuisine that isn’t as familiar to Americans as Italian or Chinese than something this incredible?

Other options for the wraps are chicken shawarma, falafel, and the “spoiled brat” (chicken, beef, lamb, falafel, and hummus!) and run at about $7 for a regular, $9 for a king size.  The chicken and falafel are exceptional, though I can’t speak for the spoiled brat as I haven’t graduated to that level (yet).

Finally, and this I can’t stress enough: if you have the good fortune to try Kebabalicious, try the loaded french fries. Words simply don’t exist to describe them.  The fries alone are hot, fresh out of the fryer, perfectly crispy, and would be amazing all by themselves.  But, they’re taken to the next level with tons of parsley, spicy red sauce, and feta.  Tasting these fries for the first time was the biggest food-high I’ve had in a long time.

In closing, thanks for reading and please share your Kebabalicious-related experiences here.  Kebabalicious has about 200 reviews and has earned itself an average of 4.5 stars on Yelp.  That’s very impressive, but my rating is a solid 5 out of 5.

Read more here: http://www.austinkebab.com/.