Eastside Road, January 12 and 13, 2012—A COUSIN AND HER HUSBAND stayed overnight, and I decided to introduce them to Julia Child's wonderful chou farci, and I decided to follow the recipe much more closely than I usually do.
What an amazing recipe, and what an amazing recipe author. Julia Child must have had an extraordinary gift for organization — it's almost too bad she didn't go into politics instead of cuisine: she'd have made a fabulous president, I think.
There are essentially three steps to the process: making the stuffing; assembling the cabbage and baking it; making the tomato sauce. I had trouble finding Savoy cabbages, but two little ones turned up in a San Francisco neighborhood grocery store in the nick of time. Yesterday afternoon I set a big pot of water to boil, cooked two thirds of a cup of rice (next time I'll cook less), and made the stuffing by cooking a pound of sausage and another of ground veal, then a good thick slice of ham cut into little pieces, then a couple of onions chopped up. These all get combined with the rice, a raw egg, salt and pepper and a good bit of powdered sage.
I blanched the cabbages just enough to be able to pull them apart; then put five thick slices of bacon and some pancetta into the cabbage-water and simmered them. They went into the bottom of a hemispherical mixing bowl, along with some chopped carrot and shallot that had been sweated in goose fat. Then the biggest cabbage leaves, and a layer of the stuffing, and another layer of cabbage leaves, and another of stuffing, and so on until everything's used, ending with cabbage leaves.
I filled the mixing bowl with hot chicken stock, covered it with aluminum foil, and baked the whole thing for two or three hours. Meanwhile I made the tomato sauce: I browned a good-sized onion, roughly chopped, in goose fat with a little olive oil; then added a small can of tomatoes and a couple of smashed cloves of garlic, and a little bit of stock. After this had cooked down a bit I put it through the food mill. The result was a little thin so, following Mrs. Child's instructions, I thickened it with cornstarch.
I turned the cabbage out onto a platter; it was beautiful. The sauce was served on the side. Tonight we'll finish the dish, with a green salad; last night we finished dinner with spiced quinces which Lindsey made from the November 2011 edition of Sunset magazine; she livened it up further with some star anise. What a cook she is!
(Jan. 12) Pinot noir, Clos Henri (New Zealand), 2004; Cabernet sauvignon, Simi (Alexander Valley), 1999