For the summer festival in one of our local villages, La Bastide Solage, the entire Blanc family, all seven children and their children, still make enough soupe au fromage for the 400 attendees. When Marthe offered to show me how to make it, but as she was assembling it she seemed confused as to whether it looked right. It turned out she was used to making it for at least 27 people or hundreds, not just the four of us, so she had to ask Germain if he thought there was enough liquid! Francis Roussel served this dish for our grand festival for our work crew. He prepared it for 80 people and used our huge bread oven to bake it.
Every Aveyronais has their own version of this, some with only water, some with garlic, some with spices, but this is La Bastide Solage Soupe au Fromage. This recipe can be modified using different cheeses, different liquids. It is not an exact science either. The quantity of liquid depends on the size of the cabbage, the bread, etc. You cannot make a mistake, but it’s better too soupy than too dry! You can make this in the morning and let it sit all day before putting it in the oven, if you’d like.
Soupe au Fromage
1 head cabbage, preferably Savoy or curly, leaves separated
1 lb. Swiss cheese, freshly grated (gruyère is better)
1 lb. white cheddar cheese, freshly grated (cantal)
1 each loaf stale bread, sliced as thinly as possible
4 cup chicken bouillon, preferably homemade
salt and pepper as you layer.
Blanche the cabbage leaves in salted boiling water about 5 minutes so that the tough parts are supple. Mix the cheeses together. In a large casserole, put a layer of wilted cabbage, salt and pepper, layer of cheese, layer of bread slices, cheese, then repeat several times until the casserole is full, ending with a layer of cheese.
With the handle of a wooden spoon poke holes through the layers every inch or so and slowly pour some of the bouillon over the surface. Let it absorb and continue pouring in small quantities until when you pull the side away from the pan you see water about half way up. Too much liquid is better than not enough!
Put in a hot oven, 425° for about 30 minutes or until it’s very bubbly and the cheese is golden. Ladle into soup bowls and serve very hot.