I love fennel and happily eat it plain, in a salad, in a gratin, or in a quiche. But that's the bulb, and while I might toss in a few fennel fronds for appearances, the anise flavor is too strong to use much of them. So, the fennel fronds often end up chucked into the compost pile.
When I saw a stuffed cabbage recipe on Tongue in Cheek utilizing fennel fronds, I knew I had to try it. I added ground beef to my version, although I think keeping it vegetarian would be just fine since the tomato sauce and onions add plenty of flavor. Of course, I had to scale down the recipe because using six cups of olive oil and two pounds of rice seemed a bit much for one person. As it was, I still made a bunch of cabbage rolls and ended up freezing the filling to later liven up some vegetable soups.
I boiled these French Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Beef, Fennel, and Rice and ate them plain, but I think a light tomato sauce would work nicely too.
French Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Beef, Fennel, and Rice
Adapted from Corey's friend Annie's recipe on Tongue in Cheek.
For a whole bunch of cabbage rolls, you'll need:
1 head cabbage, leaves separated whole and blanched
2 cups fennel fronds, finely chopped
1 large onion, pureed
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups rice
1 lb ground beef
8 oz tomato sauce
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
Set a large pot of water to boil.
Separate the cabbage leaves from the head until you can't get any nice whole leaves any more. You can save the inner part of the cabbage for another recipe, or puree it and add it to the filling of the cabbage rolls like I did. Slice along the membrane to thin out each leaf if you must. When the water boils, blanch the leaves for a few minutes. Place the outer leaves in the water first as they'll taken longer to soften. Drain and set aside to cool.
Finely chop about 2 cups of fennel fronds. Set aside.
Puree 1 large onion.
In a large sauce pan on medium-high heat, add a generous 1/2 cup of olive oil and then the pureed onions.
It seems like a lot, but the onions will quickly absorb all that olive oil. I pureed the rest of the inside of the cabbage too, but that's optional.
Add about 2 cups of rice and keep sauteeing, adding more olive oil if necessary.
Add 1 lb ground beef, 8 oz tomato sauce, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp ground black pepper.
Then add in 2 cups of chopped fennel fronds and stir to combine.
Take one of the cooled cabbage leaves and place about 2 tblsps of filling at the bottom.
Roll up from the bottom a little bit.
Then tuck in the sides of the leaf.
Keep going until you've made a nice little cabbage roll.
Line the cabbage rolls in a pot and fill with water until the cabbage rolls are covered. Add a plate on top of the cabbage rolls to keep them pressed down. Turn the heat to high. When the water boils, turn the heat down to medium-low, lightly cover the pot and let simmer for about 20 minutes to half an hour, depending on how many cabbage rolls you're cooking. If you're cooking them all at once, you'll need to cook for longer.
I only boiled a few rolls for now.
Wish I had bought extra tomato sauce as that would have been really lovely with the cabbage rolls.
You can freeze the rolls for later. Any leftover filling also freezes well and may be added to soups if you wish.
Other stuffed leaf recipes:
Bo Nuong La Lot (Vietnamese Grilled Beef with Wild Betel Leaves)
Bo Nuong La Nho (Vietnamese Grilled Beef with Grape Leaves)
Bo Nuong La Tia To Dai Han (Vietnamese Grilled Beef with Korean Perilla Leaves)
Canh Bap Cai Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Cabbage Soup)
1 year ago today, Pho Ga Huong Que Cafe - Oakland.
2 years ago today, Bo "Ne" Bit Tet (Vietnamese "Stand Back" Beef Steak).
3 years ago today, Fried Rice with Hot Dogs, Eggs, and Ketchup.