I know, I know: Cabbage soup? Isn't that some kind of diet thing? Yes, but this completely unrelated. Stay with me here...
When I was in high school, I worked as a watiress at a little Swiss-American restaurant in my hometown of Midway, Utah (the town is famous for its Swiss settlers), called Das Burgermeister Haus. It was a nice place with some yummy food - knockwurst sandwiches, ham & Swiss on homemade Swiss bread (delicious), rösti potatoes, beer bread (also delicious), apple strudel, along with some traditional American foods. It's been closed for a while now, but occasionally I'll think of that that place (especially when I watch Santa Claus is Coming to Town and they mention 'Burgermeister Meisterburger') and crave a knockwurst sandwich and a bowl of cabbage soup.
Anyway, when I worked there, there were three questions I was asked during just about every shift: 1) "What's with all the Swiss stuff in this town?"; 2)" Can you yodel?" (for the record: No. Sidenote: If I wore my hair in Heidi-style braids, I always made more in tips. Always. I have no explanation for this.); and 3) "Creamy cabbage soup? (they'd ask with their faces all scrunched up) Is that any good?" I would promise them it was and tell them that if they didn't like it, I would get them a salad or different soup. I never had to get someone something else. Once people had it, they were hooked. People always asked for the recipe but we never gave it out. Well, that's not true: once a NBA player came to the restaurant and his wife asked for the recipe. She wrote their home address down on a piece of paper and asked me to mail it to her if I could convince the main cook. That's when I finally got a look at the 'secret' recipe and wrote it down - for myself and for the basketball player's wife. I have the index card in front of me, in my high school handwriting. And now, I'm sharing it with you.
This is possibly one of the cheapest recipes to make. You probably already have most, if not all, of the ingredients in your fridge right now. I remember when I wrote down the recipe, I thought, "That's it?" Even if you were to go out and buy all the ingredients, you could keep your costs easily under five dollars. And it makes quite a bit - this pot of soup can feed 4-6 people.
Creamy Cabbage SoupI tried to cheat and just use milk when I made it because I didn't have the cream. Use the cream. It took forever to thicken and I had to add more flour, which I think affected the consistency and taste a little. But don't get me wrong: it was still really good. I served it with some popovers. Perfect (and cheap!) dinner for a cold, winter evening.
2 cans (14 1/2 oz. each) chicken stock. (Heather's note: Or better yet! Use your homemade stock from Thanksgiving! I used a little under 4 cups of my stock in this recipe)
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 medium head of cabbage, shredded
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/4 cup of butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups light cream
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon thyme
2 cups cooked, cubed ham (optional - I didn't use this in mine. This may make it cost a little more than the five dollars I mentioned)
In a large soup pot, combine broth, celery, cabbage, onion, and carrot; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add flour, salt, and pepper; stir to form a smooth paste. Combine cream and milk; gradually add to flour mixture, stirring constantly. Cook and stir until thickened; continue cooking one minute longer. Gradually stir into vegetable mixture. Add ham (if using) and thyme and heat through.