Make Ahead

Chicken-and-Chickpea Stuffed Braised Cabbage Leaves

February 11, 2022
1 Ratings
Photo by Jess Goldsmith
  • Prep time 45 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 4-6
Author Notes

A while ago, J. Kenji Lopez Alt posted a video on his YouTube making chicken and chickpea burgers, with a mixture similar to this filling. He explains that the mashed chickpeas prevent meat proteins from tightening up too much as you work and cook them, helping a dry meat like ground chicken retain moisture. With the addition of the fennel seeds and the other spices, the filling becomes reminiscent of a sausage, with a similar texture, and stays nice and moist, holding its shape well. It stretches 1 lb of meat into a meal that could happily feed 6, with added protein and nutrients, and no one would ever detect the chickpeas.

This same recipe works well with ground pork, beef, or even sausage—though if using sausage, you'll need to adjust spices in your filling to account for the added flavors. You can even use firm tofu, crumbled well and mixed thoroughly with the chickpeas, though you'll need to add a bit more olive oil to mind and compensate for fat. It's a really delicious, nutritious, and hearty dinner that converts cabbage haters.

Serve the stuffed leaves on their own in a bowl of the broth with some crusty bread and a lemony salad on the side, or spoon over mashed potatoes, parsnip puree, cauliflower puree, soft scrambled eggs, small white beans, more chickpeas frizzled in olive oil, risotto, brown rice, farro, tiny pasta... —Jess Goldsmith

What You'll Need
  • For the stuffed cabbage
  • 1 head savoy or green cabbage
  • 1 pound ground chicken or turkey
  • 1 28 oz can chickpeas
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 large yellow or white onion
  • 1/3 cup rated parmesan or pecorino romano
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 bunch chives, chopped
  • 1/3 cup packed parsley leaves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Cracked black pepper, to taste
  • For the braise
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 large white or yellow onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water + bouillon
  • 1 15 oz can crushed or pureed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed chili flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1-2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Cracked black pepper, to taste
  1. Break or cut 12-16 whole, intact leaves from the cabbage, as large as you’re able to get off. If they rip it’s ok, but try to avoid it.
  2. With a paring knife, shave down the thickest parts of the stems that runt through the center of the leaves, to avoid any issues with toughness.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare an ice bath in a large mixing bowl next to the stove.
  4. Working in batches, carefully place several leaves in the boiling water with tongs, trying not to rip them and trying to submerge them. Place a lid on the pot, boil for 1 min, and then flip the leaves over and boil another minute to ensure the entire leaf has been blanched. One by one, remove the leaves and submerge in the ice bath.
  5. Repeat until all leaves have been blanched, adding a few more cubes to the ice bath when necessary to keep the water cold.
  6. On a baking sheet lined with paper towels, a clean kitchen towel, or a cooling rack, lay out the leaves and blot to remove moisture. Leave to dry further while you make the filling.
  7. In a large mixing bowl, mash the drained and rinsed chickpeas with a fork or pastry cutter until they’re crumbly—not totally smooth, but no pieces bigger than a pea should remain.
  8. Add the meat, garlic, onion, parm, parsley and chives, and mix together with wet hands well until homogenous.
  9. Add 1/2 t nutmeg, 1/2 t thyme, and fennel seeds, along with a good pinch of salt and pepper and olive oil, and mix well. Mixture should be smooth. (If using another meat like ground pork or sausage, omit the olive oil at this step. It’s needed just to bring some extra fat if using chicken or turkey.)
  10. Place a small pinch of filling in a dish and microwave for 30 seconds. Taste for seasoning and adjust.
  11. Take a cabbage leaf and place it so that it’s cupping upwards, with the stem facing towards you. Place a slightly-larger-than-golf-ball sized ball of meat mixture towards the base of the leaf, inside the cup. Pull the stem upwards over the meat, tucking the sides inward as you roll, similar to rolling a burrito. Fasten towards the end with a toothpick or two—it’s helpful to secure through the stem to ensure the leaves don’t rip if possible.
  12. Place the cabbage roll back on sheet tray, toothpick facing up.
  13. Repeat with all remaining leaves you have prepped. If you have any mixture remaining after all prepped leaves are filled, shape into 1-3 hamburger sized patties, place parchment in between, and freeze wrapped in plastic. These make an excellent frozen burger for a weeknight dinner.
  14. Preheat oven to 425. In a large dutch oven or deep sided oven safe skillet, heat 2T olive oil over medium heat. When shimmering, sauté onions with a pinch of salt for 3-4 minutes until softening. Add minced garlic and cook until fragrant.
  15. Add chili flakes, 1/2 t nutmeg, 1/2 t thyme, paprika, and some grinds of black pepper pepper to the pot, along with another splash of olive oil to bloom the spices. After 30-45 seconds, add tomato paste and stir until it deepens in color.
  16. Stir in the canned tomatoes and bring to a simmer.
  17. Add the stock, broth, or water to the pot along with a large pinch of salt. Add rosemary and bay leaves.
  18. Bring to a hard simmer, and one by one, nestle in the stuffed cabbage toothpick-side up. Overlapping a bit is ok if necessary, as long as every cabbage leaf has some portion in contact with the liquid.
  19. Return to a simmer and place, covered, in preheated oven.
  20. Braise for 20 mins, then remove lid and return to the oven for another 20 mins.
  21. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes, so they’re still nice and warm but the cabbage is a bit more willing to hold its shape.
  22. Serve 3-5 stuffed leaves per person, depending on sides. Remove toothpicks and top with a sprinkle of parmesan, more chives and parsley, a drizzle of olive oil, and a good grind of black pepper.

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