Monday, August 13, 2012

Chou - Cabbage. Cabbage in a French Restaurant?

Behind the French Menu
Bryan Newman
Updated May 2019
Cabbage is very important in French Cuisine.
White Cabbage.

Chou - Cabbage.
Chou, Chou Blanc, Chou Vert, Chou Pommé  – Cabbage,  white cabbage, green cabbage  (The plural of chou is spelled choux and pronounced chou, just ignore the x at the end). The French name for cabbage, chou, originates from an old French word for head, that is rather obvious if we look at the shape of any normal white cabbage.

Red cabbage and Brussel sprouts are included in the last part of this post. Savoy cabbage is another close relative. Cabbage’s ancestor is kale and so it is also the great, great grandfather to bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, kohlrabi, radicchios, and their relatives. Kale and these relatives have their own post.

A Savoy cabbage.
No French restaurant, from the smallest to the largest, will have excluded the cabbage from one or more of the dishes they serve daily; even if the cabbage is just flavoring a soup.  In France, cabbage are starring in the kitchen of the restaurant on the corner and in every three-star Michelin Guide restaurant kitchen as well.
Seed catalog 1904
Cabbage and the Romans and the Greeks.
You may not like cabbage, and you may blame the Romans for bringing to France aqueducts, roads, amphitheaters, apricots, peaches, cherries,  prunes, almonds, snail farming, foie gras, and more, but the Greeks cultivated kale, cabbage's ancestor, before the Romans.  The Greeks undoubtedly brought the first cabbages when they occupied southern France in 600 BCE, that's 550 years before the Romans came. At that time the Greeks built their port of Massalía, now called Marseilles. Somewhere around the same time in another continent, the Chinese were developing a wide variety of excellent Asian cabbages and other kale offspring.
Soupe aux choux.
Cabbage soup served in a loaf of bread
Cabbage on French menus:
Chou Blanc en Blanquette A Provencal cabbage stew made with veal, lamb or goat.    Here white cabbage is layered between lightly fried, but quite garlicky meats that are then baked slowly with white wine until all the flavors are shared.
Choux Farci au Bœuf  Haché,  Riz, Herbes et Tomates Cabbage stuffed with chopped meat, rice, herbs, and tomatoes.
Chou Farci aux Langoustines sur Son Beurre Blanc - Cabbage stuffed with Dublin Bay Prawns, the real scampi, and served with a beurre blanc sauce.    A dish like this with meat or pork would seem to suggest an Austrian-Hungarian or East-European origin rather than French and many stuffed cabbage recipes do have that history. Napoleon I and his armies went nearly everywhere in Europe and Eastern Europe, and he and his Generals traveled with their own cooks who added herbs, spices, and recipes from everywhere.
Stuffed cabbage with a tomato sauce
Choucroute – This is the Alsatian recipe of sauerkraut, pickled cabbage. Choucroute is served both as a garnish, a side dish, and as a central part of the dish called choucroute garnie, often served as a humongous celebratory dish of pickled cabbage laden with pork, boudin blanc and boudin noir sausages, bacon, and more.
choucroute garnie for twelve, ready for serving.

Embeurré de Choux - Sliced boiled cabbage fried with butter, and then before serving more butter is added.  This is one of France’s favorite garnishes with some chefs adding small amounts of carrots and onions while others will add lardons, bacon pieces. 
Embeurré de Choux – Cabbage fried in butter
Potée Lorraine - A cabbage and meat stew made with smoked pork, pork loin, other pork cuts, as well as bacon and ham, and loads of different vegetables. The region of the Lorraine, together with the Alsace and the Champagne Ardennes in 1-1-2016 were joined together as the new super region of the Grand Est in France’s northeast. Variations of Potées and similar stews will be on menus all over France many under the name Pot-au-Feu or Pot Bouilli; Lorraine's neighbor the Alsace has its own Pot-au-Feu called a Baeckeoffe. Even if many of these other Potée variations are beef and or pork-centric they will all contain cabbage. (BTW Lorraine’s most famous culinary export is the Quiche Lorraine which has no cabbage).
Saucisse de Chou - Pork sausages made with cabbage. Many parts of France have unique sausage recipes made with added cabbage and the old region of the Auvergne claim theirs are the best. (The region of the Auvergne since 1-1-2016 is part of the new super region of  the Auvergne- Rhône-Alpes).  If you want the very best, then look out for La Saucisse de Choux d'Arconsat, the cabbage sausage from the village of Arconsat, in the department of Puy de Dôme in the region of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.
Arriving in Arconsat the capital of the pork and cabbage sausage.

Quintal d'Alsace

This is a true cabbage, and in the Alsace, in North Eastern France, where these cabbages grow, they can reach 8 kilos (18 lbs) or more; quite a surprise when you first see one. Possibly not too surprising is the signature dish of the Alsace choucroute, pickled cabbage, and so one large cabbage may be a money saver. Unfortunately, most of these cabbages reach the market when they are small, a miserly 4 or 5 kilos (9 -11 lbs).  (The Alsace has since 1-1-2019, together with the Lorraine and the Champagne Ardennes been part of the new super region of the Grand Est).        
Quintal d'Alsace
Chou Rouge – Red Cabbage
The red cabbage is a brother, or sister of the white cabbage though most are usually more purple than red with variations that come from the acidity of the soil. When cooked, red cabbage needs the addition of vinegar or acidic fruits to retain its color.
Red cabbage salad

Red Cabbage on French Menus:

Escalope de Magret de Canard avec Chou Rouge Braisé au Vinaigre de Xérès – A filet of duck breast and red cabbage braised with sherry vinegar.
Filet de Sanglier aux Airelles, Chou Rouge et Spaetzle Maison – A slice of wild boar prepared with cranberries accompanied by red cabbage and the house’s version of spaetzlie.  Spaetzlie are long bumpy dumplings associated with the Alsace where they often replace rice and potatoes.    
The inside of a red cabbage
Chou Rouge
Choux de Bruxelles – Brussels sprouts

Tiny green cabbages that come in sizes from 1.5cm (0.60”) to 4cm (1.5”) in diameter. No one is quite sure when they were first cultivated, but the Encyclopedia Britannica has them possibly being grown as early as the 1200s with written Belgian descriptions beginning in 1587.  Brussels is the capital of Belgium, and so they are honored with the name. The good news for those who need a reason to eat Brussels sprouts is that they contain lots of fiber, protein, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and K.
Brussels sprouts with a mustard glaze

Brussels’ sprouts on French Menus:

Paleron de Boeuf, Purée et Choux de Bruxelles- A beef stew from a tasty shoulder cut (the same cut is often used for Provencal Daubs) accompanied by pureed Brussels sprouts.

Suprême de Volaille Fumé et Choux de Bruxelles BraisésSmoked chicken breast accompanied by braised Brussels sprouts.

Most of us are amazed when we first see Brussels sprouts growing on a central stem.  Rather than small individual cabbages growing out of the ground anywhere from 30 to 50  or more sprouts grown on a single stalk that may weigh over 1.5 kilos (3.30 lbs). Their cultivator was a smart man or woman, fifty in one go.

Brussels sprouts grow on a central stem
This plant is growing through the snow.

Cabbages in the languages of France’s mainland neighbors:

(Catalan - col), (Dutch - witte kool), (German – kohl,kraut, weisskohl, weisskraut), (Italian – col, cavolo cappuccio), (Provencal – caulet), (Spanish - repollo blanco).

Red cabbage in the languages of France’s mainland neighbors:

(Catalan - col llombarda), (Dutch - rode kool), (German - rotkohl), (Italian - cavolo rosso), (Spanish - col lombarda), (Latin -  brassica oleracea var. capitata f. rubra),

Cabbage in other languages:

(Arabic - ملفوف ), (Chinese -捲心菜), (Dutch – wittekool, sla), (Filipino- repolyo)
(Greek – Λάχανο), (Hebrew – croov, כרוב (Japanese – kyabetsu -  キャベツ),
(Rumanian),  (Russian- kапуста), (Turkish – lahana), (Ukranian – капуста), (Latin - brassica oleracea).
Brussels sprouts in the languages of France neighbors:

(Catalan - col de Brussel·les), (Dutch - spruitjes), (Germany - rosenkohl, Brüsseler kohl), (Italy - cavoletti di Bruxelles, (Spanish - coles de Bruselas), (Latin - brassica oleracea).
Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2014, 2019
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman


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