“I have tried it with various spicy and aromatic additions, tomatoes, bits of bacon, herbs and so on, but reject them all in favour of the Trôo simplicity of cabbage, good sausagement and butter. It has a pure directness that is just right, and cannot be improved.” — Jane Grigson
For the longest time we thought Stuffed Cabbage in the Trôo Style, with it’s simple combination of cabbage and sausage, was Irish. As it turns out it isn’t, and we no longer need to wait for Saint Patrick’s Day to enjoy this warming casserole, and its melting layers of tender cabbage and velvety sausagemeat.
We used a mix of cabbages we’ve had in storage since last fall. The three greener, wrinkly ones are Savoy types, and the two yellowish ones are Gunma; neither are necessarily storage varieties, but have held up well. These both were sourced from Stout Oak Farm, and have been stored in covered bins lined with dry paper towels to allow them to breathe and soak up any excess humidity. The bins are stacked in our lightly insulated bulkhead, which hovers in the range of 36° to 39°F as winter progresses.
A quick rinse after cutting, and the cabbage brightened right up, becoming crispy and sweet once again. The cabbage is then blanched in salted water for 5 minutes, drained, and run under cold water to stop them from cooking further. Once the cabbage has cooled, it’s gently squeezed dry.
In a lidded casserole, the cabbage is layered with “good sausagemeat.” We used Sweet Italian from Brandmoore Farm made from their milk-fed pigs; it comes conveniently packaged without casing, and its light seasoning of fennel is just right for this dish. Some salt and pepper, and dabs of creamy butter are all that’s needed before it’s ready to go in the oven and time does the rest.
As it slowly cooks away from prying eyes, a bath of savory juices forms, keeping everything moist while the layers of cabbage and sausage settle into one another. We served this cut into thick wedges with a side of mashed turnips with crispy shallots to sop up the buttery juices, and a big dollop of grainy mustard for extra spice. Like any good country dish, this one can accommodate what you have — in addition to a regular head of cabbage, Grigson recommends a Savoy or Dutch variety, or even a Chinese Napa one for a more delicate texture. As for its origins, it turns out this was a recipe from one of Grigson’s neighbors in the French village of Trôo, who believed this an improvement on the classic chou farci.
Stuffed Cabbage in the Trôo Style
3 to 4½ pounds cabbage
1½ to 2 pounds pork sausages, removed from casing
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and butter
– Heat the oven to 300°F. Cut the cabbage across into thick slices, about 1 inch wide. Blanch the cabbage pieces for in a large pot of boiling, salted water for 5 minutes. If using a more tender variety of cabbage, reduce the blanching time. Drain the cabbage and run under cold water to stop the cooking, drain again and gently squeeze dry.
– Butter a lidded casserole or deep baking dish. Place a third of the cabbage in the bottom of the casserole and season with salt and pepper. Place half of the sausage meat in a layer over the cabbage. Continue with another layer of cabbage then sausage, seasoning as you go, and finish with a last layer of cabbage. Dot the top with butter, cover the casserole or baking dish, and cook in the oven for 2 to 2½ hours. Serves 4 to 6, depending on appetite.
Adapted from “Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book” by Jane Grigson, and “Good Tempered Food” by Tamasin Day-Lewis.
Local ingredients: Savoy and Gunma cabbage from Stout Oak Farm; sweet Italian pork sausage from Brandmoore Farm; cultured butter from Casco Bay Butter Co.; sea salt from Maine Sea Salt Company; and Farmhouse Garlic Mustard from Cheshire Garden.