Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Savoy cabbage

Savoy cabbage is a lot like regular green cabbage, but it has a few advantages: its taste and smell are less pungent, and it has pretty frilly leaves. I had never worked with this lovely vegetable before, so I figured I'd give it a shot.

A few things I've learned about cabbage: it's harvested in Quebec all year except midsummer (June-July); you should always cut it with a stainless steel knife, as a carbon steel knife will turn it black; Savoy cabbage is thought to have been developed by the Italians; and finally, it doesn't have to be pickled into sauerkraut or chopped into cole slaw, there are many more options!

A quick Google search for "Savoy cabbage" yielded this delicious-looking recipe from Canadian Living: Savoy Cabbage Gratin. While the cabbage I got at the market was wsy bigger than what the recipe called for (having not weighed it beforehand, I had to make up for it by adding more milk and cream in the end, and I have a big bowl of raw cabbage in my refrigerator now...), this simple dish is really, really delicious and made an excellent vegetarian main course. Also, virtually all the ingredients are local.

A few things to note:
(1) Rather than Gruyère cheese, which is imported from Switzerland, I used Le 1608, a cheese from the Charlevoix region of Quebec which is quite special. It comes from a very rare race of cows, called "Canadienne". If I'm not mistaken, only about 500 of these cows exist in the world. Click the link to read more (in French) and go out and try the cheese! It has a stinky rind like Oka, but a mild, medium-soft (softer than Gruyère) inside with a distinctive flavour.
(2) I substituted duck stock for vegetable, and duck fat for butter, since we had duck last night. To hell with vegetarianism! I find that a great way to economize and use leftovers is (a) to render and freeze all leftover fat from chicken, bacon, duck, etc. and use it instead of other fat (butter, oil) in appropriate recipes; (b) ALWAYS make stock from leftover carcasses and bones. It is so easy to do, and it keeps forever in the freezer; and (c) look in the fridge before I plan dinner, so I can use leftovers creatively. Nobody in my house seems interested in eating leftovers, but they never complain when I transform them into something new. Risotto is great for that. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

To accompany the gratin, I bought some delicious, tender, and very juicy pork sausages from Porcmeilleur, an nice farm-direct pork shop at the Jean-Talon market. For less than five dollars, I had four sausages that I first boiled in St-Ambroise beer (I like to boil sausages before I fry them, because it eliminates some of the fat and makes them easier to cut), then I sliced them into little rounds and pan-fried the pieces to brown them a bit. I removed the pork from the pan and deglazed with calvados, pouring the thick calvados along with all the brown pan scrapings over the sausage pieces. Just a few pieces of sausage along with a generous helping of gratin makes for a very hearty and healthy meal.

Oh and I also made whole wheat bread to go with all this, but I'm still quite the novice at bread making so I won't go into details here. Maybe another time.

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