When I was growing up in southern Louisiana we celebrated many holidays with the same traditions each year: chicken barbecues and egg boxing for Easter, crawfish boils on Mother’s Day, fish fries and dances for my parents’ anniversary on the 4th of July, crab boils and German chocolate cake for my birthday in August, All Saints Day services and flowers in the graveyard on November 1, gumbo for Christmas Eve dinner. Now that I live far away in Oregon, a lot of those traditions are hard to maintain. The one I keep alive, without fail, is also one of my favorites, the New Year’s Day tradition of eating cabbage and black-eyed peas.
I know Louisiana isn’t the only place in the country with this tradition, and although I’m not sure of its origin, I believe it goes way back as a way to ensure prosperity for the coming year. Cabbage is supposed to symbolize the greenbacks that will come your way in the new year. Black-eyed peas signify coins in your pocket. I know lots of friends and family who could use more of both of those in the coming year. So once again, tomorrow morning I’ll be at my stove cooking cabbage rolls to eat for our dinner. It’s something everyone in my family looks forward to. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing about the black-eyed peas. Every year we all manage to choke a few down, but as long as I’ve been eating them I still don’t really like them. I can doctor them up with bacon and hot sauce, but I can’t imagine ever looking forward to heaping a pile of black-eyed peas on my plate. Cooking should be a great activity to take up the time I’m not cheering on LSU’s Tigers in the Capital One Bowl, or the U of O Ducks in the Rose Bowl. I’m looking forward to ringing in 2010 this way.
Here’s my recipe for cabbage rolls. While I got this from my mom, who has been making them for as many years as I’ve been around or more, I think most cabbage rolls recipes are similar. Enjoy!
New Year’s Day Cabbage Rolls
- 1 small cabbage
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 cup chopped onions
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 2 cloves chopped garlic
- 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
- 1-1/2 lb. ground beef
- 1 16-oz. can chopped tomatoes
- 1 egg
- 2 cups cooked rice
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Carefully cut stem from cabbage and steam for about 15 minutes over boiling water. Let cool. Loosen cabbage leaves.
- While cabbage is cooling, heat oil in large skillet. Sauté onions, celery, garlic, and bell pepper in oil until limp, about 7 minutes. Set aside in a bowl.
- Sauté ground beef in skillet until well cooked. Add reserved vegetables, tomatoes, egg and cooked rice. Mix well.
- Have a large casserole dish on hand. Take one cabbage leaf, place about a tablespoon of meat mixture at the base, fold over the sides and roll into a ball. Place the roll into the casserole dish and secure with a toothpick in the middle. Repeat until meat mixture is gone.*
- Place a 1/2 cup water over the cabbage rolls and bake for 45 minutes.
*If you don’t have time to put the rolls together, you can also layer the ingredients in your dish to make a cabbage casserole.