Stuffed whole Cabbage

Chou Farci à la Grassoise: “Sou-Fassum”

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

Appears in

Simple French Food

By Richard Olney

Published 1974

  • About

Traditionally, this stuffed cabbage is one of the elements of the pot-au-feu native to Grasse, a Gargantuesque Sunday repast that is further distinguished by counting mutton among its meats. The integral preparation requires a 20- or 25-quart receptacle, but the stuffed cabbage alone provides a more than honorable supper and may be cooked in a large saucepan or marmite of a size to easily hold it submerged in liquid. Lacking stock or leftover bouillon, it may be cooked in salted water to which a couple of carrots, an onion stuck with cloves, and a bouquet garni have been added. In season, a handful of freshly shelled peas are a welcome addition to the stuffing.

The Grassois nourish a proud affection for the thing that, to me, seems justified, although a group of friends, all originally from the southwest of France, once surprised me by unanimously pronouncing it insipid and flabby. The cook had, admittedly, been overcautious with seasoning, but their common yardstick for judgment was the golden, firm, egg-yolk-bound farci of the next recipe—quite another thing, which, to my mind, may be as good but is certainly no better than the sou-fassum.

A net-like arrangement called a fassumier was, in the past, manufactured in Grasse. A string bag, the top of which has been cut off, permitting it to be opened out flat, is its most practical replacement. Lacking that, cheesecloth may be used.

Ingredients

  • 1 large Savoy cabbage
  • The green, leafy parts of 2 pounds Swiss chard, parboiled for 5 minutes, squeezed thoroughly, and chopped
  • 1 pound lean fresh pork, chopped
  • ½ pound lean salt pork, cut into ¼-inch dice, parboiled a minute, rinsed, and drained, lightly colored in a few drops of oil (chopped bacon may be substituted and need not be parboiled)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed, peeled, finely chopped
  • 2 medium-size, firm, ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped (or the equivalent of canned tomatoes, drained of their liquid and chopped)
  • ½ cup rice, parboiled for 15 minutes, rinsed, and well drained
  • Salt, pepper, suggestion of nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon powdered, dried mixed herbs (thyme, savory, oregano)
  • Stock or bouillon

Method

Remove the dark-green outer leaves of the cabbage, pare the stem end, and parboil the whole cabbage in a large quantity of just simmering water for from 10 to 15 minutes. Drain in a colander until cool.

Spread the prepared string bag (or cheesecloth) out on a tabletop or chopping board, place the cabbage in the center, carefully open out about twenty of the outer leaves, spreading them flatly without damaging them or detaching them from the core. Remove the heart, slicing across the core so as to leave a base to which the outer leaves remain attached and, after cutting out the core from the heart, chop the leaves, pressing the chopped mass well to rid it of moisture.

Mix thoroughly the chopped cabbage leaves and all the remaining ingredients (with the exception of the bouillon), using your hands, and form the mixture into a compact ball, placing it at the heart of the opened-out cabbage leaves and re-forming the cabbage by pressing the leaves, one by one, back around the ball of stuffing. Enclose it in the net bag or cheesecloth, drawing the edges up around the cabbage and interlacing a length of kitchen string through the holes (or, in the instance of cheesecloth, threading it through with a trussing needle) and tying tightly so as to make a compact package. Place it in the marmite, pour over enough bouillon to generously cover, bring to a boil and cook, covered, the lid slightly ajar, at a bare simmer, for about 3½ to 4 hours.

Present it in a large salad bowl (place the tied-up cabbage in the bowl, tied end up, undo it, spread the net out and away from the cabbage, “unmold” it onto a plate, placing the plate upside down over it and turning bowl and plate over together, remove the net, replace the bowl upside down over the cabbage and turn the lot over again to present the cabbage right side up in its bowl) and serve, apart, a sauceboat of the cooking liquid with which to moisten the servings.