A news story out of Paris the other day had it that President de Gaulle, busy streamlining the French economy, was planning to abolish Les Halles, the great central food market of Paris, as being antiquated and inefficient. Progress must be made. And no doubt the needs of today's population will be better served by a modern, decentralized market system. But a legion of Americans—and Paris visitors of every other nationality—will mourn the passing of Les Halles, where a restorative plate of cabbage soup or onion soup tasted so wonderfully satisfying at dawn after late revels.
Not the least of the charms of this market were the marketmen, husky and hale, smelling of hay, joking, singing and imbibing soup as they started their day's work.
Soupe aux choux,
Du Boulevard St. Germain.
"Cabbage soup, the people's broth, the truffled partridge of the Left Bank"—so runs a rough translation of one verse of an old French army song.
Well, cabbage soup can taste just as fresh and invigorating for supper here as it did in the wee hours at Les Halles. I never found out exactly how the classic was made there, but the recipes given at right are both Gallic and both satisfactory. Even people who habitually dislike cabbage (English Author P. Morton Shand writes, "There is obscenity in the very word") should accept these preparations as uncabbagy and verdant delights. Nutritionists in recent years have advocated the quick cooking of cabbage as beneficial to the retention of vitamins. The quick cooking also means everything to the taste and appearance, not to mention the smell, of the vegetable—as the best French cooks have known for centuries.
Cabbage soup, properly made, is almost a meal in itself, and he who eats it for a light supper never misses meat. It is therefore, for many, a dish especially worth considering at the beginning of Lent.
Cabbage cooked green takes fresh butter (not bacon or lard) boiled with it and, if cheese is used, freshly grated Gruy√®re or Parmesan (not grated cheese bought in a package). Both of the soups described below are prettiest if made with green savoy cabbage, ruffled like a Dior petticoat. They are best served with hot cro√ªtes of bread (SI, Jan. 26).
QUICK SOUPE AUX CHOUX (serves four)
I learned about this soup many years ago from the redoubtable chef of the Normandie, the late Magrin. He remarked that he liked to make it for himself, for he had learned the recipe from his little mother. This dish, shown in the photograph on the opposite page, can be prepared in half an hour.
½ medium cabbage, in one piece
4 peeled medium potatoes
4 cleaned leeks
½ cup heavy cream
salt and pepper
butter the size of a walnut
Core cabbage. Cut cabbage and potatoes into large dice, and cut leeks into sections about the same size. Throw into 1½ quarts rapidly boiling water and cook until tender (15 or 20 minutes). Then, over low heat, add cream and butter cut in small bits. Season to taste and serve.
GARBURE (for six)
Garbure makes a heartier meal than the foregoing soupe aux choux. Preparation should be started about¾ of an hour be-before serving. It must cook very quickly and taste very fresh.
1 medium head green cabbage
3 medium onions for purée
1 small onion stuck with 2 cloves
6 peeled young carrots
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
¼ pound butter or more
1½ cups bread crumbs
large pinch marjoram
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
large pinch savory
1½ cups freshly grated Parmesan or Gruy√®re cheese
First cut up and boil the three onions in a little salted water till soft, and press through a sieve to make a purée. Separate the cabbage leaves, discard any bad leaves and rinse the good ones under cold water in a colander; then pour unsalted boiling water through them. Slit the carrots lengthwise into three parts.
Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a brisk boil in a very roomy pot over highest heat; throw in carrots, the onion stuck with cloves, and the black pepper. Boil for 10 minutes. Add cabbage leaves and cover pot, but remove the cover to turn the leaves occasionally during the next 5 minutes of boiling. Now add onion purée and ‚⅛ pound of butter cut in bits. Continue boiling over high heat for 5 more minutes, turning leaves over once. Remove from fire and drain (reserving broth).
Butter an ovenproof serving tureen and sprinkle with grated cheese. Arrange cabbage leaves to line the interior and sprinkle the leaves with bread crumbs. Then arrange the rest of the cabbage leaves in layers alternating with layers of grated cheese, bread crumbs and dots of butter to fill the tureen 5/6 full. The top layer should be cabbage leaves crisscrossed with the carrot lengths. The onion, cut into pieces, can be tucked in anywhere.
Over the whole arrangement pour the hot broth left from cooking the cabbage. Stir in the herbs and sprinkle lightly with cheese. Place in oven, preheated to 450°, for 5 minutes. Remove from oven, place under broiler to brown the top and serve immediately.