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Czech Cabbage Soup
with Smoked Ham

(Polévka kapustová s uzeným masem)

This one just cries out Czech--hearty, thick, north European, smelling of the Sumava somehow. Serve hot to 4 as a hearty lunch with sliced dumplings and a big draft of pilsener on the side. Dream of Libuse and floating up the Moldau....

Boil the half head of cabbage in boiling water for 8-10 minutes, then drain it briefly and chop it finely.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, then toss in onions and sauté until soft, then stir in flour and brown, stirring attentively. This always takes longer than you think, but it is worth the wait. When well browned, pour the ham (or chicken) stock in all at once, whisking. Add reserved mushroom liquid, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Add the rehydrated mushrooms, chopped, the cabbage, salt, and ham. Simmer for a few minutes.

When ready to serve, ladle into bowls and pass the sliced dumplings.