01 April 2015

Winter Gifts from the Garden: Savoy Cabbage and Cheesy Potato Bake Recipe

Savoy Cabbage Layered with Taleggio Cheese and Potatoes
It is finally spring and for those of us in the mountains it comes just a tad later than it does for most folks. I still have ample supplies of some of our winter staples like potatoes and savoy cabbage that we are using for a delicious result these days before all the spring delicacies take over. I thought I would share one of my favorite dishes combining these pantry staples. I am sure most of you are thinking of Easter with asparagus and peas and those sorts of veggies, but we are still having cooler temperatures here and sounds like we are not the only ones and this dish is one that I think is sure to please as it has just the right amount of comfort foodiness to it. Let me know if you agree.  
I made it the traditional way the first time in an oven proof pan in the oven and it was like a variation of scalloped potatoes, which will always make me think of my mom and growing up in southern Illinois. I added some parma ham once when I had some that need to be used up and I had some mozzarella as my only cheese, which worked out well with the ham giving it some needed salty element to the dish. I naturally have used all sorts of local cheeses because this is a recipe that lends itself to variations and innovation, so by all means feel free to add your own special touch.  My latest change has been to make it in a skillet on top of the stove without turning the oven on to great success. I do miss that crispy top crunch, but not enough not to make it when the oven is not part of the plan. This recipe is based on Antonio Carluccio's recipe that he used for one of his Italian sojourns that featured Piedmont. By chance it was one of the possible entertainment selections that was on offer on my flight back from the U.S. a few years back.  It was a great episode and a great reminder of a dish that is comforting to anyone and especially those of us from the former kingdom of  Savoie, where Savoy cabbage hails from. 

Savoy Cabbage from our garden and the stove top version 
Oh yes and if you are not familiar with Savoy cabbage, it is the one that is green and wrinkly. I find it to be mild and tender and certainly one of my favorites. It hails from this part of Europe and is a winter time favorite as it will keep under the snow for when you are ready to harvest it when needed. My in laws have always kept some all winter for not only our eating pleasure but also for salad for the chickens when she used to keep them. We aren't the only ones who like some greens in the winter. You can make this dish with regular smooth cabbage as well it just is a slighty different flavor and texture, but it will be almost as good, so do try and find the savoy cabbage if you can. but don't not make it if you can't.
I thought I would also share with you a little video I put together from our harvesting of the last of our cabbages a few weeks ago. We still have patches of snow dotted around now, but the "foehn" (warm strong) winds that have been howling for the past few days have helped the big patches evaporate rather quickly.   

This is me filming Fabrizio harvesting our Savoy cabbage a few weeks ago.  I hope you enjoy my second attempt at making a movie from my videos.

Savoy Cabbage and Potato Bake

(Cavolo Piemontese con Patate)

Serves 4


650g / 1 1/2 lb Savoy cabbage, cut out the tough main rib* of the leaves leaving two halves of the leaves.
8 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (medium sized floury potatos, although red ones will work as well)
300g / 10oz Taleggio cheese, thinly sliced (or any other melty cheese, fontina, mozzarella and a little parmesan)
Some grated Parmigiano cheese to sprinkle on top and maybe between layers if you are using mozzarella
150g / 51⁄2oz butter for greasing your pans ( I didn't use it when I finished it in the skillet, although I did use a bit of olive oil.
black pepper, freshly ground
**I have added a layer of prosciutto crudo on occasion and used mozzarella and liked the results

  • Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F.
  • Boil some slightly salted water in a sauce pan. 
  • Cook the potatoes for about three minutes,in the salted water, then scoop the potatoes out with a large slotted spoon and set aside to cool. Plunge into cold water if you want to hurry them along and make them easier to handle when layering.
  • Cook the cabbage for about five minutes in the same potato water until tender. Drain well*.
*You can retain the cut out cabbage rib and the boiling water for a soup if desired or you might want to use it for adding a bit of moisture to your dish as it cooks if needed or dispose of both as you see fit.

You can finish this dish in two different ways. 
  • You will layer the cabbage, potatoes, cheese in a ovenproof pan or skillet depending on how you prefer to finish cooking this dish.
  • The original recipe calls for baking it in a 9"/ 23 cm(approximately) oven proof pan, which will give you a nice crispy top when you bake it.
  • You can also layer it all in a skillet and cook it gently covered adding milk or your leftover boiling water if needed, till all is bubbly and cooked through. 
  • Grease the ovenproof dish generously with some of the butter.
  • Arrange half of the potato slices, slightly overlapping, on the bottom of the dish, dot with some more butter
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Arrange the cabbage and half of the cheese on top of the potatoes 
  • Season with salt and pepper. 
  • Top with the remaining potatoes and cheese. 
  • Dot with the remaining butter.
  • A generous sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese is a nice finish as well

Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes, removing the foil five minutes before the end of the cooking time. Remove from the oven and serve.
Or cover your skillet with a lid and gently simmer on top of the stove until all is soft and smooth through. If you find the dish is too soupy, you can uncover it for a bit to evaporate some of the liquid. If too dry add some liquid as needed when cooking. 
I have made it both ways and enjoyed both. Sometimes you just don't have enough reason to want to turn on the oven and I am happy with the stove top results too. 

Hope you enjoy this dish.
Her's a stovetop version I served with some chicken strips I made

Hope you and yours will enjoy this hearty Piemontese dish. From our home to yours!

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