My German grandmother made these often as I was growing up. Oma Katie is 87 now and still makes them. Sometimes, she'd let me help tie them after she'd rolled them. I never got the hang of the roll-up back then. I loved their tender deliciousness, and my child's mind thought they were cute, fun food! Over the years, I've changed the ingredients of the filling to reflect healthier eating habits and new world flavors. Rather than pork sausage, ground beef and butter, I use chicken sausage, olive oil and ground almonds instead of bread crumbs. Though they don't taste like Oma's, I always think of her as I make them and now I have the roll-up down pat! It's still a comfort food for me. The photo is of my roladen, served on Oma's china.
Rather than using white cabbage, Oma used savoy cabbage. The wrinkles help the cabbage "stretch" as you're rolling and the end result is prettier. You'll need some kitchen twine - toothpicks won't work! Trust me on this. If you can't find ground almonds, just put a handful of raw almonds in a pie pan and roast them in a 350F oven for 10 minutes. When cool, grind them in the food processor or with a hand-crank cheese grinder.
A few years ago, my aunt compiled many of Oma's recipes and turned them into a beautiful cookbook for each of the members of our family. What a great gift. I turn to it often, not only for cooking, but because reading it and looking at the photographs brings back memories and smiles.
1 lg. head of savoy cabbage
1 1/2 lbs. bulk chicken sausage
2 green onions, sliced
1 c. ground,dry roasted almonds
1/2 t. salt
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 c. chicken broth
olive oil for frying
Carefully take apart your cabbage, leaf by leaf. It's easier to start at the stalk, slice into each leaf base and peel upward. You won't need the whole head - just about a dozen leaves. In a stockpot, bring about 4 inches of water to a boil. Add a tablespoon of salt. Place leaves, one by one, into the boiling water and cover the pan. After 2 minutes, gently turn top leaves to the bottom of the pan and remove from heat, replacing the lid. After another two minutes, drain water from cabbage. Run cold water over the leaves until cooled down. Drain again.
Combine chicken sausage, green onions, egg, ground almonds, salt and cayenne and mix well. Now, you're ready to start making the rouladen! Place one leaf on a cutting board. Cut away the tougher portion of the leaf, at the bottom. Form an oval meatball and place in center of the leaf, like so:
Tuck the sides of the leaf over the meat, then roll from the bottom up:
Now, it's time for the tie-up. Tie the rolls in two places, nice and snug, as the meat will shrink a bit during cooking. Trim the string ends short, since you'll be frying them next.
Once all the little guys are trussed, it's time to fry them briefly. Put some olive oil into a non-stick pan, heat over medium heat, then fry half of the rolls at a time until browned on both sides.
Place next to each other in a 9 x 13" pan. Pour chicken broth over them. Bake at 350F for 35 minutes, turning them over halfway through. To serve, snip the twine, place rolls on a plate and spoon some of the pan juices over the top.
Makes 10-12 rolls, depending how fat you make them!
Oma Katie, Me, my aunt Carol - 2007