Bake

Chou Farci (Stuffed Cabbage)

January 14, 2022
5 Stars
Photo by Julia Gartland, prop styling by Megan Hedgpeth, food styling by Anna Billingskog
Author Notes

I just love the notion that so many of the foods we love (think boeuf bourguignon or pasta e fagioli) started out as peasant food made with leftover bits that were available and then transformed into something spectacular. Chou farci, which means “stuffed cabbage” in French, is exactly that kind of dish. The ingredients of ground meat, cabbage, and vegetables are as humble as it gets, but it’s the way they are layered together that make this a show-stopping dish. Every year for the holidays, I make this as an appetizer. The instant you place it down on the table, you start to hear the “oohs” and “ahhhs”. It looks extremely impressive with its beautiful cabbage leaf display on the top. But only you know the secret of how easy it was to put together. After you make this once, you’ll barely have to look at the recipe the next time.

Granted, you probably have other things you’re making for the holiday meal—you can make this in stages, ahead of time as well. I like to chop all the vegetables two days ahead. Then cook the filling one day ahead. And finally, the morning or afternoon of the day I plan to serve, I’ll cook the cabbage and assemble the whole thing. Then the only remaining step is to bake later that evening. This recipe can be made with almost any kind of ground meat: beef, lamb, veal, pork, or even sausage all work really well. It’s only half a pound for the whole recipe, which lends delicious flavor but doesn't weigh down your guests in preparation for the main event. With that in mind, it also makes a lovely side dish or an elegant lunch. —Olivia Mack McCool

  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Serves 6 to 8
Ingredients
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large head savoy cabbage
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb, beef, veal, or pork
  • 10 ounces mixed mushrooms (cremini, shiitake, oyster, etc.), finely chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 to 3 sprigs thyme, leaves stripped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 5 grates fresh nutmeg or ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup chicken, beef, or vegetable stock
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil; season generously with salt. Meanwhile, core the cabbage and separate the leaves until you get to the center, discarding any very coarse outer leaves. You should end up with 16 to 18 leaves. Working in batches if needed, cook the leaves in the boiling water for about 6 minutes, until bright green and softened. Drain and let cool.
  2. While the cabbage cools, in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, heat the butter and oil until the butter melts. Add the lamb, breaking it apart with a wooden spoon, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 6 minutes, until the lamb is browned. Don’t worry if you're getting a lot of stuck-on bits; those will come up when you add the stock.
  3. Add the mushrooms, onion, carrots, garlic, and thyme and cook, stirring often, for 8 to 10 minutes, until softened. Add the tomato paste, allspice, and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for another 2 minutes. Pour in the stock and scrape any stuck-on bits off the bottom of the pan; season with salt and pepper. Let the mixture simmer for about 5 minutes, until some of the liquid has absorbed. Transfer to a large bowl to let cool.
  4. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Arrange a large pretty cabbage leaf, domed side down, in the middle of the pan. If any of your leaves are too curved, simply remove the thick rib with a sharp knife. Continue arranging the leaves, shingling one on top of another, until the entire base and sides are well covered. Make sure some of the leaves hang over the sides of the pan by a few inches. You won’t use all of the leaves at this point; reserve the remaining leaves for layering with the filling.
  5. Heat the oven to 350°F. Once cooled, fold the egg, breadcrumbs, and parsley into the lamb mixture; season with salt and pepper if needed. Spread one-third of the mixture in the cabbage-lined pan and top with a cabbage leaf or two to cover. Repeat with another one-third of the filling and a layer of cabbage leaves. Finish with the remaining filling and a final layer of cabbage leaves. Tuck in all the overhanging leaves toward the center and press down gently.
  6. Place the pan on a sheet pan and bake for about 40 minutes, until the cabbage has pulled away from the sides and is slightly browned. Let cool for 10 minutes, then unmold by inverting a plate or round platter over the pan, flip the plate and pan, and remove the pan. Cut into slices and serve.

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