Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mon Petit Chou, Part Deux

I'm not sure about where you live, but the weather here in NYC has slowly been getting milder, and with it my impatience for spring and it's culinary bounty have hit an all-time high. My last visit to the farmers market for fresh produce was met with little more than the remnants of winter roots, and I left with a bag full of cabbage and the hope that my new herb plants could tide me over until conditions improved. So this week, as the temperature rose to a lovely spring-like 60 degrees, I found myself wishing for something more than the ugly reminders of winter sitting in my fridge. But since that's what I had and I didn't want it to go to waste, I figured I'd just have to find a way to work with what was hopefully the last of my winter supply. Inspired by the recent festivities of St. Patrick's Day, I figured I could take my leftover tiny head of cabbage and make a modern (and significantly tastier) cabbage soup. And since I don't believe in simply boiling bacon (how could they mess that one up?), I decided to make mine chock full of meaty goodness.

This is a really great way to use up an entire head of cabbage without feeling as if you're going to OD on the stuff. I don't really know anyone that looks forward to a big, fat plate of cabbage, so a soup is a natural vehicle for making it more palatable. The first time I had cabbage soup was during a cold and rainy trip through Ireland. I was a college student at the time and was told that the best way to see Ireland in a weekend was to take a bus tour. And so, I spent two and a half days on a bus that improbably wound it's way through dirt roads and up the many rolling green hills of Ireland, spilling gas and exhaust all over the ruins and ancient abbeys where we paused. There was almost no food and lots of Irish whiskey, until our last day when the tour guide/bus driver/purveyor of whiskey insisted we eat a proper Irish dinner at a proper Irish pub. The options seemed bleak (has no one in Ireland heard of frying?), but ever the intrepid foodie, I went full force, ordering the cabbage and boiled bacon soup. Needless to say, it was bland and managed to make bacon look and taste worst than the sole of my shoe. I was put-off from any soup containing cabbage for years, but have recently redeemed the poor vegetable as one that needs a little more TLC to reach it's full potential.

And so I began by browning the sausage (chicken-apple) then removing it and sauteing the cabbage in the sausage oil and brown bits until it was slightly wilted. Then I added thinly sliced garlic, rosemary, and a hint of salt and pepper. Once it was reduced in volume (by half) and half cooked, I added some tomato paste, parsley and a hint of paprika. Then I added the beans and chicken broth, bringing the whole thing to a boil until the cabbage softened a bit more, but still had a tiny bit of bite (no mushy cabbage here!). The sausage went back into the pot and the whole dish was ready to be served. I made this as a quick after work dinner (all done in 30 minutes), with canned beans, but you could certainly use fresh beans for that slow cooked taste and thick, starchy consistency. It's really well rounded with the tiniest hint of spice, and could be even more filling and hearty for colder days with the addition of a few potatoes. Here's my recipe, I hope it helps tide you over until Spring is officially here!

Cabbage Soup With Sausage, Chorizo And White Beans

1 small head of cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1 15 oz can of white beans (cannellini beans or great northern), rinsed and drained
4 cups of chicken broth
2 mild flavored sausages (I used chicken-apple), sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 dry chorizo, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 Tbsp fresh parsley
1/2 Tbsp tomato paste
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary
extra virgin olive oil

1. In a soup pot, brown sausage (not chorizo) in olive oil until dark and crispy on the outside. Remove to a plate and set aside. Add cabbage to the pot and saute until slightly wilted and reduced in volume by half. Add garlic and rosemary and saute until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

2. Stir in tomato paste and paprika and  cook until dissolved, about 30 seconds. Add beans, chorizo and broth and bring to a boil. Cook until cabbage is done (not mushy, with a little bite), and add the sausage before serving. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!


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