I’ve never loved cabbage, let alone a whole stuffed cabbage cake. As I’ve grown older, I’ve expanded my palette into other cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. Cabbage has become a go-to in my book for fall and winter comfort food.
A Chou Farci is a French stuffed cabbage cake or roll. We typically make an entire cake, but we had individual ones in Burgundy and they were adorable (and the best we’ve ever had). Chou Farci is usually filled with a combination of meat, vegetables, and rice. You could easily make a vegetarian Chou Farci by substituting lentils or farro for the meat. We’ve made a few different versions. Below is what we make at home.
The presentation might look a little intimidating, however, it’s actually really easy. Just don’t tell your guests. We always pre-boiled the cabbage until we learned a time-saving trick from Julia Child. Just freeze the entire head of cabbage. Then let it thaw and the leaves will be limp enough to be workable. Make sure to reserve the best-looking and largest leaves for the base of your Chou Farci, which will be the top when you flip it out of the pan.
If the ends of your cabbage won’t stay down after assembling the Chou Farci, try putting a heavy pan lid on top of it to push down the mixture. It will fall as it cooks. You also may want to put a sheet pan or foil under it while it bakes – just in case it overflows. We used rice, but if you can find an easy rice and/or lentil package, that can cut the time.
- 1 head Savoy cabbage leaves, boiled and cooled (or frozen and thawed -see note above)
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 2 carrots, finely diced
- 1 celery stalk, finely diced
- ½ lb ground beef
- ½ lb ground pork
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2-3 sprigs of thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- olive oil
- 14 oz can tomatoes, crushed
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup cider, white wine, or cognac
- 2 cups brown rice, cooked
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease an 8-inch cake pan or other large deep round baking dish with the butter.
- Heat a heavy pan with a little olive oil. Saute the carrot, onion, and celery until soft. Add the beef and pork and cook until the meat is browned. Add the garlic, bay leaf, thyme and white wine or cognac. Cook until aromatic. Add the tomatoes and cook until there’s very little liquid left. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Remove from the stove and allow the mixture to cool enough so that it wouldn’t cook the egg when it’s added. Discard the thyme stems and bay leaf, then incorporate the rice and egg.
- Lay the largest best cabbage leaf on the bottom of the pan. This will be your design when you flip it out of the pan at the end. Then begin laying other leaves around the edge so that they fall over the edge (you’ll be folding these back over the cake) but also make sure each added leaf overlaps the main large leaf. Once you have a layer, add a layer of the filling mixture and press down to flatten well. Top with another layer of cabbage leaves. Repeat until you’ve filled up the pan or have finished using all of the leaves or mixture. We typically get 3-4 layers. Finally, fold the outer leaves that are hanging over the pan back into the center. Make sure to tuck the edges of the last leaf into the pan. You will probably have some leaves left over, especially the small inside ones.
- Cook for about an hour or until the cabbage has fallen and the cake is bubbling. Remove from the oven carefully. Let it cool a bit, then invert it on a plate to unmold it.