by Ashley Fagan
There is something about a cozy bowl of soup that warms your soul on those cool nights as the season changes from Winter to Spring. If I’m being totally honest, I could eat soup during every season. It may be my favorite things to eat. Comforting, nostalgic, delicious, easy, and usually pretty healthy, if you consider all the veg and nutritious broth you’re adding. This soup is truly something special. I was inspired to make this soup by an idea, if my Grandmother were to make a soup, what would it look like? Veg, rich stock, and definitely meatballs! It would have to be healthy yet hearty, and evoke a sense of comfort. It would taste like coming home.
The first time I made this, my husband James proclaimed it to be his new favorite meal, and that’s saying something as he’s been my tried-and-true recipe tester for the last 17 years! He has requested this soup weekly throughout the cold winter months, but I decided to post it now as cabbage is very popular in March due to the St. Patrick’s Day holiday. There is also an abundance of Spring produce now available at the market.
Whether you’re still living in the brisk days of Winter, transitioning into the cool days of Spring or just looking for a comforting meal, this soup will surely bring you all the cozy vibes!
For the Pork Meatballs
For the Cabbage Soup
For the Meatballs
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper.
Use a large bowl and place the slices of white bread in the bottom then pour over the milk. Let it sit for a few minutes while you prep the other ingredients.
Add the grated parmesan cheese, parsley, egg, salt and pepper and stir together. Add the ground pork and mix with your hands until well combined but, be careful not to overmix as this will make your meatballs tough.
Using a cookie scoop or a tablespoon, measure your pork mixture to form uniform portions into round meatballs. I scoop the mixture into my hands, give it a slight roll, and place it directly onto the parchment lined baking sheet. Continue this process until you have used all the pork.
Bake for 25 minutes then set aside.
For the Soup
While the meatballs are baking, heat a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil and heat until shimmering then add the onion and Sautee for 5 minutes until it becomes translucent. Next, add the cabbage, salt and pepper. It will seem that your pot it completely full but the cabbage with reduce quite a bit as it cooks and releases its water. Continue to stir and cook until the cabbage has reduced by half its original volume, about 10-15 minutes. Add the garlic and rosemary and continue to stir occasionally for 3-5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and place the lid on the pot. Let the cabbage continue to cook for another 30 minutes or until it becomes very tender.
Once the cabbage has cooked down and has become soft and sweet, stir in the vinegar. Taste and adjust for seasoning. You may find you want more vinegar, salt or pepper.
Add the chicken stock and bring the soup back to a simmer. Stir in the rice and add your parmesan rind. Place the lid back on the pot, reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, gently place the meatballs into the pot and continue to simmer with the lid off for another 15 minutes.
The soup can be served immediately, or you can let it cool completely and store in the fridge for up to 5 days. It gets better each day it sits. Reheat before serving and add additional grated parmesan if you like.
Every Fall I start to crave all those delicious comfort food staples I've been avoiding during the warm summer months. Biscuits and Gravy is at the top of my list of perfect comfort foods! I love this version because of its play on sweet and savory flavors and because it's so incredibly simple to make! I think foods like this can appear challenging or unapproachable, but making your own gravy is actually one of the easiest things you can do! Not to mention so, so, so much better than any store-bought abomination you might encounter. I encourage you to not be intimidated by this southern kitchen staple. Give it a try, I promise your brunch guests won’t be disappointed!
In a large Dutch oven, over medium heat, add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, crumble to sausage into the pan and let it cook for a few minutes before stirring. You want to get some caramelization going. Continue to brown the sausage until completely cooked through, about 5-10 minutes. While your sausage is cooking, grab a fine mesh sieve and set it over a medium size mixing bowl. Once the sausage is completely cooked, pour the sausage along with any drippings and fat that have rendered into the sieve. Place the pot back on the heat and turn it on low. Let the drippings fall away from the pork and collect in the mixing bowl. You can use a wooden spoon to press the pork into the sieve to help release more fat. This is what you're using to make the roux which will thicken the gravy, so you want to get every drop. You should have roughly a half cup of pork fat to use. If you find yourself short, add butter to make up the difference. You want an equal ratio of fat to flour.
Return the pot to medium low heat, add the pork fat and flour. Using a whisk, mix the four into the fat to create a roux, it should bubble a bit and start to take on some slight color, about 2 minutes, whisking the whole time. You want to cook out the raw flavor of the four. Add the sage, salt, pepper and nutmeg to the roux and whisk to combine. Continue to cook for 2 minutes. Carefully add the milk to the roux, whisking the mixture the entire time. Continue to whisk until the roux and milk have come together. Turn the heat up to medium high to bring the gravy to a simmer, you want little bubbles not a full boil, so play with the heat as you go. This is where you need some patience. You must stir the gravy often to prevent lumps from forming and from the bottom burning. The gravy should take 5-10 minutes to fully come together. If your gravy appears too thick, you can add more milk to loosen it up. At this point you can ditch the whisk for a wooden spoon and stir in the crumbed cooked sausage and maple syrup. Continue to cook for another few minutes and taste for seasoning. You may need more salt and pepper at this point, so adjust carefully.
Serve with warm biscuits (I prefer homemade, but the canned version will work just fine) or over thick toast. Yum!
*Roux: Flour and fat cooked together to thicken sauces and gravy.
So I have a little secret to share.....sometimes I just don't feel like cooking! I know, I know, this is probably completely contradictory to my enthusiasm for encouraging everyone I come into contact with to cook as often as possible, but lets face it, life can be a little overwhelming some days and we all need a fail safe approach to putting a comforting meal on the table for our starving families after a long hard day. This one is hard to pass up with its minimal prep, and set it and forget approach! And lets be honest, who doesn't like tacos! Can I get a "Yum!" ya'll!
4-5 lb Bone in Pork Butt, trimmed of excess fat
1 Onion, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, peeled and whole
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Cinnamon Stick
1 Bay Leaf
½ Can/bottle of beer, preferably a flavorful beer such as a Pinapple or Mango
Salt and Pepper
For Serving - corn tortillas, sour cream, sliced radishes, shredded cabbage, lime wedges and cilantro.
Place the pork butt in the slow cooker and season generously with salt and pepper, (about 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper). Place the onion slices, brown sugar, orange half, garlic cloves, cinnamon stick, and bay leaf around the pork and pour in half a can of beer. Set to high and cook for 6-8 hours. The pork should be very tender and falling away from the bone.
Pre-heat your broiler. Once the pork is cooked, discard the cinnamon stick, orange half, bay leaf and garlic cloves. Remove the pork butt and place it on a rimmed baking sheet. Shred the pork and discard any hunks of fat and gristle along with the bone. Spread the pork evenly on the baking sheet and place under the broiler for a few minutes until it starts to crisp up. Stir it around and set it back under the broiler. Do this a few more times, checking the pork after a few minutes each time, careful not to char the pork pieces. Once you receive your desired crispness, place the shredded pork back into the slow cooker with the juices. Serve with corn tortillas, sour cream, radishes, shredded cabbage, lime wedges and cilantro.