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
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.
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.
Copyright © 1974 by Richard Olney. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.