Several weeks ago, going through some French community cookbooks given to me by a dear Parisian friend, I spotted a recipe for Chou Farci Auvergnat (or stuffed cabbage, in the Auvergne style). Auvergne, a region in central France, is known for its rustic cuisine. From the minute I read the instructions for this robust dish, I knew I wanted to make it.
Glancing at the ingredients for the stuffing—fresh sausage, diced smoked ham, breadcrumbs, plus chopped parsley and onions, all bound with crème fraîche and eggs—my mouth began to water! And, the technique for assembling this stuffed cabbage was both clever and practical. You simply arrange in a cast iron skillet several layers of blanched cabbage leaves topped with the sausage mixture. Cover the pan with a lid, and transfer it to the oven for an hour. It is far easier than making individual stuffed cabbage rolls.
The directions indicated that you should cool the cabbage, and then unmold it. I always hold my breath when unmolding dishes, so I was delighted when this one slid smoothly out of the skillet and onto a platter. For serving, the molded cabbage is cut into wedges, revealing the mosaic layering of the stuffing.
I also roasted sliced carrots and baby Yukon Golds. They cooked beautifully at the same temperature as the cabbage, and provided a colorful side to the main course We’ve had this warming meal twice in the past week. Both times this hearty dish helped stave off the freezing New England temperatures outside.
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Stuffed Cabbage, French Style
1 medium green cabbage with attractive outer leaves (about 1 3/4 to 2 pounds)
8 ounces fresh breakfast sausage (See market note.)
A 6- to 7-ounce thick slice good quality cooked ham such as Nieman Ranch cut into 1/4 -inch dice
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3/4 cup fresh coarse breadcrumbs (made from about 2 slices of a good artisan or country loaf, crusts removed, pulsed in food processor)
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 large egg plus1 large egg yolk
6 tablespoons crème fraîche
2 to 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano for dusting
Roasted Vegetable Garnish
3/4 pound medium carrots peeled and cut on the diagonal into 1/2-inch thick slices
3/4 pound baby Yukons or other small potatoes, scrubbed, but not peeled, and quartered
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons chopped flat leaf parsley, optional
1. Arrange an oven rack at center position and one at lower position. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Have ready an 8-inch cast iron skillet (or another 8-inch heavy ovenproof skillet) with a lid. Oil skillet generously on the bottom and up the sides with olive oil.
2. Fill a large, heavy saucepan 2/3 full with water and bring to a boil.
3. While water is heating, remove the outer cabbage leaves and about half of the inner leaves from the cabbage. You’ll need about 10 to 12 leaves. With a sharp knife cut out the center ribs from each leaf and then discard ribs. If any leaves are dirty, rinse under cold running water.
4.When water comes to a boil, add the cabbage leaves to saucepan. Cook until leaves are bright green and tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove and drain in a colander under cold running water to cool them. Pat completely dry with paper towels.
5. For stuffing, in a large mixing bowl combine the breakfast sausage, diced ham, onion, breadcrumbs, and parsley. Using your fingers, break up the breakfast sausage and combine with other ingredients. Whisk together the eggs and crème fraîche in a small bowl and using a wooden spoon stir into the filling until incorporated.
6. Using the larger, outer leaves, arrange 3 or more leaves over the bottom of the skillet with some of the rounded edges going slightly up the sides. Pat a third of the filling evenly over the leaves. Repeat two more times and finish by covering the last layer of stuffing with cabbage leaves. Tuck leaf edges along sides of skillet in. Cover skillet with a lid. Transfer skillet to center shelf of the oven, and roast for 1 hour. (Cabbage can be cooked several hours ahead and reheated. Leave at cool room temperature and reheat in a preheated 375 -degree oven until hot, about 20 minutes or more. Watch carefully so you do not overcook and dry it out.)
7. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss carrots and potatoes with 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil and spread out on sheet. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Transfer the baking sheet to the same shelf with the skillet if you have room. (If not, transfer to a lower shelf.) Roast vegetables, stirring with a wooden spoon every 10 minutes to prevent sticking, about 30 minutes. Watch carefully and remove earlier if necessary. Remove and cover loosely with foil.
8. To serve, remove skillet from oven and take off lid. Let cool 10 minutes. Then (using mitts since skillet will still be hot), invert stuffed cabbage onto a serving plate. Sprinkle top with Parmesan cheese and surround with potatoes and carrots sprinkled with parsley, if you like. Cut into 4 to 5 wedges and garnish each serving with vegetables.
Serves 4 to 5
Market note: Most groceries sell homemade breakfast sausage, which is typically prepared with ground pork and seasoned with sage. I like to buy the store-made sausage for this dish, but you can choose your favorite brand of commercial breakfast sausage as well—preferably one that has sage in its seasonings.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2022