Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's Choucroute Garnie

The German side of my family adheres to the tradition of having sauerkraut on New Year's Day. Eating plenty of sauerkraut is supposed to bring wealth in the coming year, although another interpretation of this tradition holds that sauerkraut is a good antidote to over-drinking on New Year's Eve. In our household, in keeping with the Alsatian roots of the French side of my family, we make Choucroute Garnie, a version of sauerkraut prepared in Alsace-Lorraine with plenty of white wine and juniper berries and garnished with an assortment of meats. This year I tried making the choucroute in a slow cooker, which worked very well.

In Strasbourg one might start the dish with succulent duck fat, but I started it with some thick slices of smoked bacon, which I cooked in the stovetop compatible pan of my slow cooker (one could also use a large Dutch oven) until the fat was rendered and the pieces had started to brown. To this I added chopped onion and celery (the latter being somewhat heretical, but I thought it would add complexity), which I sauteed until glassy. Then I added four bags worth of sauerkraut, rinsed and drained, some dry white wine and chicken stock, and the spices: juniper berries, whole pepper corns, bay leaves, a scant pinch of caraway seeds, and a single clove.

On top of this I layered a bunch of parsley and fresh thyme sprigs, and left the pot to simmer on medium heat for about 5 hours.

About two hours before serving, I seared thick pork chops in butter, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and tucked these into the choucroute, along with some sliced carrots. I used another cup of white wine to deglaze the pan from the chops and added this to the pot as well. The addition of carrots is also somewhat heretical, but Julia Child's version includes them, and I think they add a nice note of sweetness, and some additional texture when not overcooked.

Finally, before serving the choucroute I cooked up some bratwurst, deglazed the pan with the last of the wine, and added these to the pot, along with some frankfurters. Choucroute garnie is the classic one pot meal and only needs some boiled potatoes as an accompaniment. This recipe makes plenty for a crowd, even one hungry for wealth.

Choucroute Garnie
serves 8-10

For the choucroute
4 lb sauerkraut (in bags)
6 thick slices of smoked bacon, chopped into 1 inch pieces
2 onions, chopped
4 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped (optional)
4 carrots, peeled and sliced (optional)
2 tsp juniper berries
4 bay leaves
1 tsp whole pepper corns
1/4 tsp caraway seeds
1 clove
several sprigs of parsley and thyme
1 bottle dry white wine, such as a pino gris
1 1/2 cups chicken stock

For the garnie
4 thick bone-in pork chops, seasoned with salt and pepper
4 bratwurst
4 frankfurters
1 Tbsp butter

1. Cook the bacon pieces until they start to brown and the fat is rendered. Add the onion and celery, if using, and saute these in the bacon fat until soft. Add the rinsed and drained sauerkraut, 2 1/2 cups of white wine, and 1 1/2 cups chicken stock. Mix in the spcies and layer on the bunch of parsley and thyme. Let simmer on medium heat in a slow cooker for about 5 hours, or cook in a low heat oven for about 2 hours.

2. About 2 hours before serving, discard the herb bundle and stir in the sliced carrots. Heat a skillet, add the butter and when it starts to brown, add the pork chops in batches. Cook a couple minutes per side until browned. Nestle the pork chops into the pot so that they are completely covered. Use a cup of wine to deglaze the pork chop pan and add this to the pot.

3. About 15 minutes before serving, heat the skillet and cook the bratwurst until browned and cooked through. Add these to the choucroute pot and use the last of the wine to deglaze the pan one more time. Tuck the frankfurters in the choucroute pot to warm them. Serve with boiled potatoes.

1 comment:

Anna said...

Karen, it looks spectacular! Ours came out well too, but we didn't have as much garnie. I'm sure it was delicious.