Romania: Sarmale with mamaliga ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ด

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There’s something about the brassica family that generally doesn’t agree with me.

Fry up the onions and fennel, then add rice.

Fry up the onions and fennel, then add rice.

Maybe it’s the sulfury notes of broccoli or Brussels sprouts. Or perhaps it’s the bitter flavor of underprepared kale that burns me. Maybe it’s just the general consistency of the brassicas that sends me running and screaming.

Whatever you call it, don’t call me late to eat brassicas โ€“ because there is no late on “never.”

Still, this project is about expanding horizons, which brings us to Romanian sarmale, cabbage rolls, and if there’s a way to get me to try to eat a brassica, it’s wrapped around a mash of pork products.

Topped with sour cream, it worked, surprisingly well. Would I have preferred it wrapped in a won ton wrapper instead? Sure. Was it good regardless? Yes. I’d add the sour cream is a must, at least from my perspective โ€“ it adds a great flavor to the kraut.

I made four varieties of sarmale, all with the same base: Pork, bacon, onion, parsley and fennel. I then split it in half, adding dill to one half and leaving the other half dill-free for the dill-averse Emily. Halfway through wrapping them, I added some fresh sauerkraut from New Seasons Market, which was a great addition โ€“ the krauted sarmale were way better than the unkrauted ones. Finally, I made some mamaliga to serve alongside the sarmale.

Mixing the meat and veggies.

Mixing the meat and veggies.

This recipe was based off recipes published at JoCooks and Romanian Food.

Sarmale ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ด

  • Some rolls deployed into the casserole dish.

    Some rolls deployed into the casserole dish.

    2.5 lbs ground pork
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 1 1/2 onions, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh fennel, chopped
  • bunch of parsley
  • 2 Tb chopped fresh dill
  • 2 Tb vegetable oil
  • 4 Tb tomato paste
  • handful peppercorns
  • 5 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large cabbage
  • 1 lb bacon, uncooked, chopped
  • 1/2 lb fresh sauerkraut (from the fridge, not a jar)
  1. Preheat oven at 375.
  2. These rolls burned a bit on the top, but it didn't affect their flavor.

    These rolls burned a bit on the top, but it didn’t affect their flavor.

    Chop the onions and fennel and fry them in the oil until tender. Add rice and cook for another minute. Add mixture to ground pork and add salt, pepper, dill, parsley and bacon and mix well with your hands.
  3. Boil 4-6 cups water (or chicken broth) with tomato paste.
  4. Remove all the cabbage leaves.
  5. Fill each half leaf with a spoonful of meat mixture and roll. Put all the rolls in a casserole dish and add the tomato water over the rolls. Add bay leaves and peppercorns. Add more water as needed. Cover the casserole dish and bake at 375 degrees for about 2 hours.
  6. Remove the lid. Bake for two more hours. (Total of four hours baking).
  7. Serve hot, with sour cream and mamaliga.
Finished product โ€“ sarmale, sour cream, mamaliga.

Finished product โ€“ sarmale, sour cream, mamaliga. Not my best food photo.

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