We started out making stuffed cabbage leaves — cabbage rolls. And we made them. But we filled up a big casserole dish with the cabbage rolls and still had a lot of cabbage and stuffing left over. The stuffing — ground beef, ground lean pork, and some sausage meat, with sauteed grated carrot, chopped celery, and chopped onion — needed to be cooked.
A meatloaf? Why not? What about all those big cabbage leaves? Walt had the idea. Line the loaf pan with the leaves. Leave the tops of the leaves hanging over the side of the oiled pan so that they could be folded over and wrap the whole loaf. That's when a meatloaf becomes a terrine. It's stuffed cabbage, but also a terrine de chou farci. With tomato sauce.
I can't give you exact proportions for the stuffing because I didn't really measure anything. Any good meatloaf recipe would do — ground veal would be very good, or ground turkey. Add some breadcrumbs or cold cooked rice to the mixture to soak up the juices the meat will render as it cooks. To make the cabbage leaves pliable enough to work with, you need to blanch them.
The easiest thing to do is cut the core out of a head of cabbage with a small, sharp knife. Then put the cabbage into a big pot of boiling water, right side up, and let it cook for about 10 minutes. Take it out of the water and let it drain for 10 or 15 minutes, to cool down. And then start peeling off the big outer leaves of the cabbage, which will be softened and flexible, the way you want them.
Line the loaf pan with the big leaves, draping them over the sides. Put some chopped cabbage in the bottom of the pan, and then put in a few tablespoons tomato sauce. Spoon the meatloaf mixture, which should be fairly dry, into the pan. Put some more chopped cabbage on top, and spoon on a little more tomato sauce.
Then fold the cabbage leaves over the top. Add a few more blanched cabbage leaves to cover the top surface completely, and dribble or brush on a little olive or vegetable oil over all. Bake the meatloaf in a 300ºF/150ºC oven for an hour or so. Cover it with foil or a lid for most of the cooking. Uncover it toward the end, but watch that the cabbage leaves on top don't burn.
This is a meatloaf or terrine that you can eat cold or hot. It's just a meatloaf, but then it's not just a meatloaf because it's cabbage too. The meat mixture contains a lot of onion, carrot, and celery, plus flavorings like fennel seeds, thyme, and hot red pepper flakes. Over-salt it slightly if you are planning to eat it cold. It'll taste better.