According to Paula Wolfert....and in my experience, the woman is to be trusted entirely... whenever a chicken is poached in the southwest of France, it is stuffed. Further, the stuffing of the chicken is never enough stuffing. (We all know this to be true.) Thus, a large ball of additional stuffing, wrapped in the outer leaves of a cabbage, is also poached. This is, I kid you not, known as "the green chicken". I'm sure you can see that I had to try it.
I was particularly drawn to this somewhat loopy preparation, because it reminded me of a party dish my mother used to make, which involved a stuffed cabbage, made in a similar fashion. When she fixed hers, a meat and rice stuffing was carefully inserted between the leaves of a partially cooked whole cabbage, which was then gathered into a pouch of cheesecloth, poached in broth, and served cut in wedges, with a tomato sauce. It was incredibly delicious.
This version, from The Cooking of Southwest France, is somewhat less fiddly to do. Still, in all probability, it will not appeal to anyone who is not in the mood to make a bit of a fuss. As I was feeling like some pottering, I decided the moment was right. It was a very tasty soup-supper, nicely seasoned and rich tasting, but not indigesibly so. It came out looking like it was meant to look, which was gratifying.
I didn't deviate much from Ms. Wolfert's careful plan. However, having learned from recent sausage experiments and readings that meat can be poached in plasic wrap, and lacking sufficient cheesecloth to wrap my green chicken up properly, I substituted the plastic wrap, poking tiny holes in it with a thin skewer, in case this was an important aspect of the specified cheesecloth.In retrospect, I think it is important, so that the melting juices from the meats can flow into, and flavor the broth. If you would like a green chicken in your soup, you will need the following items:
dried bread, torn 3 cups
lean veal 8 oz. finely chopped or ground
lean pork 5 oz. finely chopped or ground
fatback pureed in processor 4 oz
shallot 1 finely chopped
garlic cloves 3, finely chopped
crushed allspice berries 8
freshly grated nutmeg 1/4 tsp
finely chopped fresh parsley 3 tbsps
heavy cream 2 tbsps
eggs 2 large
milk 3/4 cup
armagnac 1 tbsp
chicken broth 5 qts
baby potatos 24
baby carrots 18
From 12 to 24 hours ahead of time, in a large bowl, combine the bread, milk, cream, meat, parsley shallots, garlic, salt and pepper. Sprinkle with Armagnac, cover and refrigerate. The next day, boil some water. Core the cabbage, salt the water, and cook it for 15 minutes. Drain.
Line a medium sized, deep round bowl with cheesecloth or plastic wrap. Leave plenty of lining hanging over the edge of the bowl. If you dampen the bowl first, the lining will cling better. If you are using the plastic, poke tiny holes in it with a skewer or needle.
Remove the soft leaves from the cabbage, and line the bowl with them, again, with plenty of overhang. Overlap the leaves, but not excessively. Use about 1/2 the cabbage. Next, pack in the chilled filling. Top the filling with smoothly arranged inner leaves, and fold the overhanging cabbage leavesover all. Now, gather up the cheesecloth or plastic, coaxing the cabbage wrapped parcel into a sphere shape. Tie snugly with kitchen string.
At this point, you can refrigerate the "green chicken" for a few hours. However, you must bring it back to room temperature before you continue, which may take quite a while, given the size and density of this amusing object..
Bring the stock to a boil, and slide the "green chicken" in. Turn down to a simmer, cover,and cook 1 1/2 hours.
Ladle a quart of the hot broth into a 3 qt saucepan. (You are still cooking the green chicken in the larger pot-don't stop, cover it up and let it simmer on.) Add the potatoes and carrots to the smaller pan, and cook til tender. Correct seasoning. After 2 hours, it's time to check the "chicken" to see if it is done. Ms. Wolfert supplies a darning needle sort of test, which is undoubtedly the time-honored method. Though, in truth, something of a Luddite, I am nonetheless more comfortable in this regard with my instant read probe thermometer. Pork is done at 160F.
Once the "chicken" is done, drain in colander. Unwrap carefully, cut your basketball in 6 wedges, and put one in each of 6 soup bowls. Add the cooked veg, spoon the veg cooking broth over all, and sprinkle with a bit more parsley. Add 1 tbsp soft butter to each bowl, if you like. (I didn't.)
All of this would have been a lot of bother for one fairly austere, though flavorsome meal. However, there were four good-sized wedges left . I put those in a baking dish, and pored over some seasoned chopped tomatoes in puree. The next day I baked this up, covered with foil to start, and uncovered to finish, for a very nice and quite different stuffed cabbage meal. There was also plain cooked cabbage and boiled potato left for a Bubble and Squeak.
BTW, the green chicken to the right is from Chi Hong Toys; it's a keychain, I think.