Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Venison Golabki

I really like venison. It's like beef's leaner more sustainable cousin. I've always liked the way it tastes and I'm happy to eat a healthier red meat, but the main reason I really like it is the environmentally friendly way that it ends up on my fork. As far as I know you can't just buy a chunk of venison in the supermarket. It's not farm-raised, pumped full of growth hormone, fed genetically-modified grain or caged into a small area. There are only a couple ways to get venison; befriend someone who will kill it for you, kill it yourself, or order it at a restaurant that had someone kill it for them. I went with the first choice. 
Bryan had a few pounds of venison in his freezer from his father's hunting outing this past fall. I eagerly suggested we make some venison golabki (traditional polish stuffed cabbages). Usually they are stuffed with beef or pork and rice but we used quinoa for a more whole grain. We also chopped up some vegetables to mix into the filling. Be patient with the cabbage leaves. They are a little difficult to keep from tearing but the golabki stay wrapped surprisingly well. They may not be as pretty as your polish grandma makes but they are sustainable, delicious little guys.

Venison Golabki
Measurements are approximate but play around with it a bit. It's really not an exact science. Serves 6-8

1 1/4 lb ground venison
1-2 large heads green cabbage
1-2 eggs
3/4 cup quinoa (uncooked)
3 28oz cans plain tomato sauce

1 yellow onion
1/4-1/2 head of garlic (peeled)
1/2 lb small white mushrooms, sliced
1 carrot, chopped
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
4 cherry hot peppers
handful of spinach
2 tsp hot paprika
1/2 tsp salt
generous amount of pepper

Pour a thin layer of tomato sauce into the bottom of a large saucepan or dutch oven. Cut the bottom off the cabbage, core it and shred the unusable small leaves. cover the bottom of the pot with the shredded leaves to create an insulating layer between the bottom of the pot and the golabki. This helps to keep them from burning.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and blanch the cabbage leaves (about 7 minutes or until soft). Rinse and pat the leaves dry. Set aside.
With a wooden spoon mix venison eggs, paprika, salt, pepper and quinoa in a bowl and set aside.
Chop the carrot, peppers, onion, garlic and spinach to a manageable size and add them to your food processor along with a handful of the mushrooms. Use the chop setting to mince it but don't leave it on so long that it becomes mush. I like a little texture.
Mix it into the meat.
Lay out a cabbage leaf and spoon 1/4-1/2 cup of the meat mixture into the center (adjust the amount for the size of the cabbage leaf.) The leaves should be soft enough to roll but might fight back a little bit around the stiff rib areas. Be patient and they will cooperate.
Place each wrapped cabbage into the pot seam side down. Pour another layer of sauce over the golabki and continue to nestle them in alternating sauce, golabki and the remaining mushrooms until gone. Make sure the last layer is sauce and that the mushrooms and golabki are well covered.
Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook covered for 1 1/2 - 2 hours or until quinoa and venison are cooked, cabbage is soft and sauce has developed full flavor.
The leftovers freeze well and actually taste better the second day.

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