Recipe: Caramelized Cabbage Soup
Twice a month, Berkshire County native Alana Chernila, mother of two, and author of the cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), contributes a thoughtful and heartfelt essay/recipe created exclusively for Rural Intelligence readers. Her first cookbook has achieved top-seller status, and Chernila has a new one in the works, titled “The Homemade Kitchen,” due out in 2015.
I’m going to tell you a secret.
Next fall, when (I hope) you flip through the pages of my new book, you’ll see a photo of me in my spring garden. It looks just as it should: dark, compost-rich beds hold hundreds of little seedlings. The rhubarb is up and ready to be picked for pie, but everything else is tiny, green, and full of promise. It looks like I’ve planned well and planted a garden that will feed my family through the season.
At least, that’s how it looks.
This is what’s really going on in that picture: under deadline, crazed, and three days away from the first day of photos, I asked my friend and boss Elizabeth over at Indian Line Farm for help. I knew we were taking a garden shot, and at that point, all that was growing in my neglected garden was thistle and last year’s rotten kale. Always kind and helpful, she pulled out a few flats of seedlings that had been forgotten and so drooped a bit. She told me they’d perk up enough in the ground to at least get my photo.
“I’m pretty sure these are all cabbage,” she told me. I was so grateful for the seedlings, I didn’t care what they were. I figured I’d get my shot, and then I’d start again with the real garden I was planning for the year. Of course, that never happened, and that’s how we’ve come to know 2014 as the year of the cabbage.
The variety Elizabeth gave me is called “tender sweet.” It is indeed both tender and sweet, and throughout the late summer and fall, we’ve eaten it in every form and recipe possible. I have a new appreciation for the cabbage, and I must admit I love it more than ever.
This recipe is one of my favorite new cabbage discoveries. I caramelize the cabbage as if it were onions, add a rich broth, and top it with cheese-y toasts. It’s sweeter and heartier than onion soup, and it’s even turned a few people who thought they didn’t like cabbage into big cabbage enthusiasts.
Caramelized Cabbage Soup
Serves 6 to 8
For the soup:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
10 cups finely sliced green cabbage (from about 3 pounds)
1 medium onion, finely sliced
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 quarts chicken or beef stock
1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
Salt and pepper to taste
For the toasts:
½ stale baguette, thinly sliced
½ cup grated parmesan or gruyere cheese
1. Make the soup: Melt the butter over medium heat in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the cabbage and onion and cook, stirring often, until the cabbage wilts, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is golden and shrinks by at least half, 45 minutes to an hour.
2. Add the thyme and cook for a few more minutes. Pour the stock into the pot, bring to a low boil, reduce the heat back to medium low, and cover the pot. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the soy sauce and salt and pepper.
3. While the soup cooks, make the toasts: Spread the bread slices on a baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with the cheese. Keeping a close eye on the toasts, broil until the cheese melts, 1 to 2 minutes.
Serve in big bowls, with a few toasts floating in each one.