Cabbage rolls stuffed with meat is a traditional Greek dish in Winter. Similar rolls are also made in many other countries around the world but there is one element that differentiate the Greek ones. That is the sauce with which are served, known as avgolemono.
Avgolemono translates to egg-and-lemon and is made by thickening a mixture of whole eggs and lemon juice by adding a hot broth. The latter is usually the liquid into which the food was cooked. Avgolemono sauce, except cabbage rolls, is used to dress additional dishes, like the Greek-style fricassee, but also chicken and other soups.
Making avgolemono can be tricky in the sense that the cook has to be careful enough not to curdle the eggs while adding the hot broth. To achieve this, someone has to pay attention to a few critical points. First, the temperature of the ingredients has to be right, the eggs should be at room temperature and not cold, while the broth has to be warm but not boiling hot. The second critical point is the way the mixing takes place. It is very important for the first batches of the broth to be added very slowly and under constant stirring into the egg and lemon mixture. The stirring has to go on further while the final mixture is transferred into a pot to cook briefly on medium heat so as to reach the desired, final consistency.
Often, some people cheat either because they do not know how to make proper avgolemono or because they do not have enough patience for constant stirring. They do so by adding flour or corn starch so as to easily thicken the mixture, sometimes to a very thick consistency that looks more like a béchamel sauce. However, in this way, the taste and the whole concept of avgolemono is ruined.
I have never made avgolemono before and I was very intrigued to make finally this great sauce and dress with it my cabbage rolls.
In the classic recipe, the cabbage rolls are prepared and cooked in a pot by adding some water. At the end of the cooking, that water plus some juice released from the rolls serve as the hot broth to thicken the egg and lemon mixture. The final mixture is subsequently added back into the pot with the cabbage rolls. Before serving, the whole content is gently mixed by holding with both hands the pot and swirling it.
In my version presented here, I felt changing a couple of things in the traditional recipe and put my own touch on this Greek classic. First, I did not cook the cabbage rolls in a pot by adding water, but I simply steamed them using a bamboo steamer.
That means I would not have a hot broth from the cooking of the cabbage rolls to make the sauce. Instead, I used as a broth the flavoured liquid into which I let some porcini mushrooms to rehydrate.
My avgolemono sauce as well as the whole dish came out great!
Stuffed cabbage rolls with dried porcini-based avgolemono sauce
Stuffed cabbage rolls
The amounts listed make ca. 12 medium size rolls
a cabbage of any king with rather big leaves
250g minced meat (here I used mostly beef and a small part of pork)
a few dried porcini mushrooms
a couple of spring onions
a bunch of dill
fresh or dried oregano
an espresso cup of extra virgin olive oil
- Add some hot water to the dried porcini and let them rehydrate for at least one hour. Keep the flavoured water for the avgolemono sauce and use the mushrooms in the stuffing.
- Add the whole cabbage into a pot with water, bring to simmer, and remove gradually the cabbage leaves after they are nicely softened. Let them cool down before stuffing.
- Make the stuffing by mixing all the other ingredients into a bowl. Knead by hand the mix for a few minutes and place it for half an hour in the fridge, before dividing and rolling into pieces.
- Cut a part of the main stem from each cabbage leaf so as it can fold freely. Place on top a piece of the stuffing and fold to securely close and form a roll.
- Cook the cabbage rolls using a bamboo steamer or any other way.
the juice from rehydrated porcini, plus some extra water if needed to reach ca. 800 ml of broth
2 whole eggs at room temperature
juice from one lemon
- Beat into a bowl using a whisk the eggs with a pinch of salt.
- Add the lemon juice and keep beating.
- Start adding very slowly in the beginning the hot (not boiling) broth while keep mixing constantly. After having added some, go more liberally until you finish adding the whole broth.
- Transfer the mixture into a pot and place it on medium fire. Keep mixing until the mixture thickens a bit. If you feel that curds are starting to form, just remove the pot from the fire.
- The sauce is ready when it thickens slightly. It is not going to reach creamy consistency, it will remain easily pourable.
- Use it to dress the dish and enjoy!