corned beef and cabbage reinvented:
sou-fassum, Lou Fassum, and Saint Patrick’s Day
Sou-fassum is a farce, a chou farci à la Niçoise (a stuffed cabbage the way they prepare it in and around Nice) to be exact. Sou-fassum, a speciality in the south of France, is blanched cabbage leaves stuffed with a combination of swiss chard, rice, ground pork, bacon (more pork), onions, and tomatoes. The farce is then cooked in cheesecloth which is wrapped around the cabbage and the entire package forms a ball known as a fassumier. Thefassumier is then cooked in a stock pot-au-feu for about three and one-half hours.
The first time I hadsou-fassum was at the Michelin-starred restaurant “Lou Fassum” located in Grasse (Grasse is about twenty to thirty minutes West of Nice and known for its perfume and summertime Jasmine festival). The only thing that could match the breathtaking view and first-rate service of this amazing restaurant is the superb food created at the hands of Emmanuel Ruz. The dish was delicious. As I ate it (sharing it with no one) I kept thinking of how the preparation naturally lent itself to the corned beef and cabbage tradition of Saint Patrick’s Day. This should be done to corned beef. After all, why do we have to have the same brisket (many times stringy) year after year served with the same (soggy and greasy) side of cabbage? Well, we do not and this year it is time for something new.
This week’s simple pleasure reinvents the sou-fassum classic by adapting it to this fun holiday. It is a little healthier in that it has less fat than traditionally is used and I use farro instead of white rice. A classic sou-fassum includes concassé tomatoes and the forcemeat is layered with additional cabbage leaves; however, I eliminated both to simplify the dish.
A few ingredient and production notes. First, the recipe calls for minimal salt because I know many of you do not have time to make stock and will use store purchased stock which tends to be salty. However, you will have to season to taste, the stock is your variable so I cannot tell you exactly how much seasoning to add. Second, if you buy the brisket and it is already marinaded in pickling spices, then put the pickling marinate in your pot-au-feu and you can eliminate making a sachet. Third, you can ask your butcher to grind the brisket for you; however, ground brisket can produce dry results. I find that cutting the brisket into large dice and minimally pulsing the meat in the food processor is actually better. Fourth, you can cut the recipe in half and use one half a pound of brisket if you are only serving 4 people (although the leftovers are just as tasty and they can be a great addition to a tomato sauce).
As written, this is a simple dish to make: blanche, sweat, mix, stuff, simmer, forget about it for 3 to 3 1/2 hours, and serve. It is fun to make (it is a hobo pack in cheesecloth for goodness sake !) and a great break from the normal routine. Your Saint Patrick’s Day sou-fassum may not involve a Leprechaun, but you will have created your own pot of gold.
Je vous souhaite un bon appétit !
(corned beef and cabbage reinvented)
what you need:
1 head of beautiful Savoy cabbage
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup diced onion, brunoise
4 ounces lardon (or bacon cut into strips)
1 pound brisket, cut into 1″ cubes and processed in food processor
1 cup chopped mustard greens
1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1 1/2 teaspoon whole grain prepared mustard
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup farro (semipearled or whole)
10 cups chicken stock (or as needed)
1 bouquet garni ( with 2 bay leaves, fresh sage, and fresh Italian parsley)
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon black pepper corns
1 teaspoon poivre de sichuan
1 tablespoon dried chili birds
12 juniper berries
2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley
olive oil as needed
- Blanche. Blanche cabbage head in a pot of salty boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Remove cabbage and peel leaves from the head until you reach the heart. Cut the ribs from the leaves. Set aside. Slice the heart of the cabbage (the heart is about the size of your fist) into strips about 1/4 inch thick. Set aside.
- Render Lardon/Sweat Garlic and Onions. In a pan over medium high heat, render lardon. Once lardon is cooked but not browned, remove lardon and set aside. Drain excess grease from pan, leaving some in the pan for the onions. Add garlic and onions to pan and cook until translucent. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Forcemeat. In a bowl, combine meat, onion, garlic, lardon, sliced cabbage heart, mustard seeds and greens, mustard, salt, and farro.
- Fassumier. Spread cheesecloth out in a colander with the cheesecloth draping over the sides. Arrange cabbage leaves on the cheesecloth in a large circle (Remember that the bottom of the colander will be the top of your dish so use your nicest cabbage leaves). Lay forcemeat in cabbage leaf-lined colander. Wrap cabbage leaves over the forcemeat. Close the cheesecloth by tying shut (make sure there are no loose ends and a ball is formed).
- Pot-au-feu. Place sachet, bouquet garni and stock in a large stockpot over a high flame. Add fassumier (it should be submerged, add more stock if necessary). Bring to a boil and then immediately reduce heat and gently simmer for 3 to 3 1/2 hours. If the fassumier is rising to the top above the water, you can keep it submerged by laying a lid, or stainless bowl, smaller in size than the stockpot on top of the fassumier.
- Serve. Remove the fassumier from the pot. Let it cool slightly. Carefully remove the cheesecloth and invert the cabbage and place on a large platter or bowl. Garnish with parsley oil as needed.
If you are in the South of France visit Lou Fassum and tell them chef Morgan sent you.
381, route de Plascassier
(33) 04 93 60 14 44