Monday 27 June 2011

Chou Farci or Stuffed Cabbage

Inspired by TLI's little jaunt to Paris last week we began to flick through Elizabeth David at the weekend. He has been making me jealous with tales of dauphinoise potatoes, veal, red wine in the Marais, little lunchtime back street restaurants where they only serve a few dishes but everything is delicious... One such dish was a Chou Farci, a French stuffed cabbage dish. Be warned it isn't that pretty... Before we cooked it it looked like an alien's brain, or a weird dishevelled cabbage chicken... But once sliced up it was a bit more rustic looking and incredibly tasty. I imagine a bowl of it in the countryside with some crusty bread to mop up the delicious juice and a glass of good red wine. Rustic is definitely the word for it. Next time I will try and make smaller individual parcels per person that may look prettier than a large cabbage brain.

So we set off for the Grainger Market and returned with spring peas and baby turnips and lots of bits of pig. Mince, chops and a trotter to be precise, and some chicken livers just to up the meat quota a bit more...

This recipe is loosely based around Elizabeth's Chou Farci a la Mode de Grasse, a speciality of the town of Grasse in south east France, she actually has a whole chapter of stuffed cabbage recipes, this borrows a little from the others as well. These amounts could easily serve 6, we will be eating it all week... The concept is to separate the cabbage leaves out and then layer them back up with the meat mixture between each to reform a cabbage shape, tie it up and cook...

Firstly I set about shelling the huge bag of peas, you will need about 225g. At the same time blanch a white cabbage in a pan of boiling water for 5 minutes to loosen its leaves, drain and leave to cool when the time is up. When it is cool enough to handle peel away the leaves individually and leave to dry. I only got about half way into the cabbage before it was no longer blanched enough to continue, it was not a problem as there was too much food as it was... Put the peas in a large bowl, add a finely chopped leek, the finely chopped heart of a lettuce and 30g of uncooked white rice.

Now for the meat. Add the meat of 4 pork sausages, 4 slices of bacon finely chopped, one pork chop finely chopped and 3 or 4 chicken livers also chopped. Mix all of the meat with the pea mixture, add an egg yolk, and season with salt, pepper, mace, nutmeg, a crushed clove of garlic and some chopped rosemary and thyme. Then spread a layer onto each of the cabbage leaves.

Now you need to layer up the leaves one on top of the other, until they are all used up, finally rolling them round to reform a cabbage shaped ball... I freaked out a bit at this stage and am not at all sure I did it correctly. I will definitely make smaller individual parcels next time, I think it will be much easier, less stressful and prettier. Then you need to tie the whole thing up with string. Voila...

Line the bottom of a large casserole dish with squares of bacon and add 3 or 4 chopped baby turnips and 3 chopped carrots, the pigs trotter and a herb bundle of thyme, parsley, rosemary and a bay leaf. Put the cabbage into the centre of the pan and pour over a tumbler of chicken stock and a glass of white wine. Cook in a low oven, about 160°C for 2 to 3 hours.

It may be an ugly little rustic dish but it is definitely full of flavour. Serve in a bowl, with a big ladle of the gravy and the turnips and carrots. I will definitely be continuing my exploration of the Chou Farci, especially into autumn as I have already book marked a version with chestnuts, smoked sausage and partridge...

1 comment:

  1. c'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas chou farci a la francaise


Happy cooking! Let me know if you make any of my recipes, send a picture, and let me know any of your own recipes and tips! Anna x