Galupsi or Dolma (Depending on How Russian You Are Feeling)

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I do not often tackle the food of my childhood or eat Armenian/Russian food outside of my parents house. Simply because the parents have their dishes down. They are always good, they are always almost too salty, and I find there's absolutely no need to mess with recreating them.

But the other day, I was on the obligatory phone call with my mom, and she started talking about making her stuffed cabbage rolls, which she calls galupsi (like a good Russian, the Armenians just call it dolma, and she's adamant what she makes is not dolma), with savoy cabbage instead of regular cabbage, and I got a craving and decided it was time to roll up my sleeves and cabbage as well.

What I like about my mom's cabbage rolls versus the many others I have tried (some regrettably) is that they are spiced well. My parents do not fear the salt shaker. They also are a bit fanatic about grinding their own meat. My dad has a general distrust of ground meat from the store, and as long as I remember, they have always had an electric meat grinder so they don't have to rely on the suspicious ground meats from the market. My mom grinds her onions into the meat as well, which she says makes the meat mixture extra juicy.

I liked the idea of using savoy cabbage as well, which my mom found a little easier to work with. I did not grind my own meat. What I should have done is mixed in some pork for additional fat and flavor. Instead I bought ground beef from the store. The rest I ball parked. It was a learning experience. My galupsi were good, but not at my mom's level. I needed fattier meat, and to salt my broth a lot more. A decent first effort.
We served a few other Russian/Armenian favorites -- cold bean salad, sujuk, pickled herring, sour cream -- and we had our friends over for a little taste of the USSR. A highlight was the husband's delicious rye bread.

1.5 - 2 lbs of ground beef (the fattier the better)
1/2 cup or less of white rice (my mom uses short grain, I used long grain since I didn't care to make a trip to the market), rinsed
1 onion, chopped fine (I also added a shallot)
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
dill and parsley, chopped
dried basil
salt and pepper
head of savoy cabbage, blanched (I had some meat leftover, so I also stuffed a couple of peppers and zucchini)
1, 8 oz can of tomato sauce
chicken broth and water

1) Combine meat, onion, garlic and rice. Add herbs to taste, half the can of tomato sauce and season your meat. Mix all the ingredients together with your hands.
2) Prepare your cabbage leaves for rolling, removing the core and cutting leaves in half if necessary. Place a spoonful of meat on each leaf and roll. There are great YouTube videos if you've never done this. You basically want these tight, but leaving some room for the rice to expand.
3) Pack rolls into a dutch oven. Cover with a combo of broth, water and the remaining tomato sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
4) Bring to boil, then simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes, until rice is cooked. You can always do a taste test. Husbands are great for this.

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