Savoy cabbages at the French farmers' market

Stuffed Cabbage (Chou Farci): A Cheat’s French Classic Winter Recipe

After all the pastries, a girl has to take a break from desserts now and again, especially before – and after – all the festive dinners. And I’m craving cabbage: stuffed cabbage!

Ever since these perfectly round Savoys have been showing off at the market, Antoine suggested I make chou farci or stuffed cabbage, a rather splendid French classic. Rather than tell him to “get stuffed”, I welcome his ideas for dinner – but looking at a few classic recipes, I shied away from making it.  It looked difficult and a right hassle: a perfect excuse to give it a go!  As a lazy gourmet, I needed to cheat slightly with a normally long recipe.

French market of St Germain best vollailler

If you have been following le blog since the beginning, you may remember me talking about Monsieur Dee. For the past few years, he and his charming colleagues have been serving their local clients with the best quality game and poultry at the farmers’ market in Saint Germain-en-Laye, just west of Paris.

Update: for more on Saint-Germain-en-Laye, check out my introductory article on the Royal town, just outside Paris – and also a chocolate and pastry walk-about that I’ve composed for your next visit.

La Patronne makes the most exquisite poultry stuffing which has a warming hint of quatre-épices (ground pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger), just perfect for this time of year. That was it – et violà!  My excuse to cut down the recipe by half.  And, as it normally uses pork and/or veal, a stuffing of poultry makes it that bit lighter to digest. Use your favourite turkey or vegetarian nutty stuffing or – if you can’t get a good quality stuffing sold separately – take off the skin of your favourite sausages.

The secret to the recipe is to be organised with the leaves.  It looks complicated but believe me, it isn’t as long as you think.

Lay out each cabbage leaf in order of largest to the smallest (click on the photos in the recipe card below and you’ll see what I mean.)  Cutting into the stuffed cabbage at the end is also easier than it appears: just cut off the string and using a large sharp knife, cut out each portion.

Serve in large soup bowls and you’ll discover that this family dish could also be served to your guests too. We enjoyed it with a light and fruity Pinot Noir wine from Alsace.