Cabbage rolls

Sarmale (cabbage rolls) is a traditional Romanian food, served at nearly every wedding and holiday (and there are MANY)... The recipe is somewhat different in the Romanian regions, but here is a traditional one:

500gr ground beef
500gr ground pork ( do not use the lean kind - it will enhance the flavor if you use the regular one)
1 spoon tomato paste
salt and pepper
2 spoons rice uncooked
1 large or 2 small cabbage heads
1 large onion
250g smoked bacon cut in small pieces
500 gr (1 can) wine sauerkraut
1 spoon whole peppers
salt and pepper
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 laurel leaf
1 small smoked pork hock - just for taste

1. Filling: Mix the ground beef, ground pork, tomato paste, salt and pepper (after taste - if you use the cabbage pickled in brine, remember that it can be quite salty!) and rice. Set it on the side at room temperature while you prepare the leaves of the cabbage.
2. If you use the pickled cabbage, taste it and if it is too salty wash it gently without breaking the leaves. If you use fresh cabbage, you have to add it whole in salted boiling water for 5 -10 minutes (depending how thick the leaves are - as a general rule try to choose the thinnest leaves possible). Once boiled take each leaf carefully and wrap about 1 - 2spoons of meat. The size of the rolls are really personal preference, in Southern Romania they are usually really small and going North towards Moldavia they get really big in size.
3. Separately, in a pan fry the bacon together with the onion until translucent (about 2-3min) and add the sauerkraut, salt (again taste the sauerkraut and see how salty it is), pepper, whole pepper and the tomato paste- cook another 3 minutes. Set it aside.
4. In a deep crock/pan spread evenly at the bottom about 1/3 from the sauerkraut mix. On top of it add one layer of rolls. Add another layer of sauerkraut and another layer of rolls. Finish with a layer of sauerkraut. On top add the small pork hock and the laurel and add water in order to barely cover the rolls.
5. Boil on stove top at med- slow heat approx. 2 hours - 2 1/2 hours. Take out one roll after 2 hours and try to see if it is cooked thoroughly. Once cooked, take out the laurel and the pork hock and discard.
6. Bake at 375F for another 30 minutes until you see a nice crust formed on top of it.
7. You can actually freeze it. In the freezer keeps very well for at least 1 month.
8. Serve it with polenta and top each plate with 2 generous spoons of sour cream. Enjoy!

Amount Per Serving - Calories: 828, Total Fat: 18.9g, Cholesterol: 64mg