Pain au Chou

dsc_1508RECIPE #314, DAY #509


ORIGINAL RECIPE: “Cabbage Gratin,” from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone*

TIMING: 1 hour and 15 minutes


TOOLS: Gratin or casserole dish, whisk, mixing bowl, soup pot, etc.

COOK TYPE: Oven (baking) and stovetop (boiling)

HEALTH: Eat your veggies, especially your sulfur veggies, like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. This bready side will help you do that, even if it embraces some all purpose flour and dairy fat. It’s still a lot of cabbage.

dsc_1506EXPERIENCE: I love this dish.

Years and years ago, when I first made it, I don’t think I was expecting much. I do like cabbage, but I think I was drawn in by the tomato paste and the cream. At any rate, I made it, and I have thought of it as a favorite ever since. Probably this is partly because I am enamored with kitchen magic, and this dish is a type of kitchen magic. You put some runny pink sauce clinging to a bunch of limp cabbage into the oven, and out pops a salmon-y loaf which–when you cut it open and take a slice–tastes far different from whatever it was you expected.

And with a name like pain au chou, you thought you were eating something fancy, while I, the chef, know that it is really just simple peasant food.

Kitchen magic.

NOTES:  This dish–called by its French name, pain au chou–could be called Cabbage Bread or Cabbage Loaf, but I prefer its famous name instead.

For a more Eastern European meal (like when I served it with franks and onions), you could take this bread loaf along with you. Just add 1/2 teaspoon dill and a pinch of caraway seed. Also, add horseradish to taste to the sauce.


  1. Preheat your oven to 375F. Butter a small-medium baking or casserole dish. Cover the sides of the pan with a thin coat of Parmesan.
  2. Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add 1 large-chopped 1 1/2 pound Savoy cabbage and boil for 5 minutes. Drain the cabbage and squeeze out as much moisture as possible.
  3. While the cabbage is boiling, whisk together in a medium mixing bowl 1/3 cup all purpose flour, 1 cup milk, 1/4 cup creme fraiche (or cream or sour cream), 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 3 eggs, 3 tablespoons fresh parsley (or 1 teaspoon dry), 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper.
  4. Add the dry-ish cabbage to the batter and stir to combine. Dump the cabbage into the baking dish and smooth flat-ish.
  5. Bake for 50 minutes, until set, firm, and lightly browned.
  6. While loaf is baking, in a small mixing bowl combine 1/2 cup sour cream, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, and a hefty pinch of salt. Whisk in milk just until pourable. Taste for seasonings.
  7. Serve loaf drizzled with the sauce.


Serve with either a French supper or an Eastern European one. Roast chicken and peas, sure. Or sausage and onions with pickled beets.

*Recipe changed from the original.


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