Choucroute, part Deux

6 03 2008

Choucroute is French for sauerkraut.  Choucroute garnie is a specialty of the Alsace region and may be the second-heaviest dish in the French repertoire.  (The first being cassoulet, though I’m sure this is debatable.)  Given that I had a bowlful of leftover homemade sauerkraut, I decided to attempt choucroute garnie.  I was up in Montmartre yesterday afternoon on a pâtisserie-scouting quest, and I had looked into the neighborhood charcuteries and chosen one to visit.  Of course, this particular charcuterie is closed from 1-4 pm, so I had to time my visit accordingly.  Naturally, it was still closed when I showed up at 4:15.  No indication of whether they planned to open later that day, just the cold metal shutters of a closed French shop.  Well, this can’t be the only place to get sausages in Montmarte.  Sure enough, two or three doors down was a butcher shop which had at least ten kinds of sausage.  When I got to the front of the line I told the butcher that I wanted to make choucroute garnie and asked which sausages I needed.  He proceeded to point to three different sausages as well as some large chunks of unsliced bacon.  He asked how many I was cooking for and I replied, “Deux.”  So he pulled out two francfort sausages, a fat red sausage whose name I have forgotten, and a piece of poitrine.

This much meat for two people?!

This is, apparently, the necessary meat to make choucroute garnie for two.  After making my purchase, the butcher advised me on how to cook each item.  I nodded politely, a plan already forming in my head.

Despite the poitrine already being cooked, I decided to trim the skin off and render it a bit more.  I also cut some thin strips to form the base of my choucroute garnie, because… why not?

Mmmmm… hog fat

Once that started to brown, I added a couple of sliced onions to deglaze the pot.  When they were softened I added some roughly chopped garlic and let it become fragrant.  Next came about a glass’ worth of Alsatian wine, followed by the sauerkraut, some chicken broth, two bay leaves, a few sprigs of thyme, a clove, and black pepper.  I nestled the remaining chunk of poitrine (cut in half) in the pot, covered it, and turned the heat to medium-low.

Before…

After it had simmered for about an hour, filling the house/room with irresistible smells, I sliced up some fingerling potatoes and added them to the pot along with the sausages and a pinch of salt.  I let it cook for another half an hour or so, until the potatoes were tender and had absorbed the flavors of the choucroute.

…and after

Here you have it, folks: choucroute garniefor two!  Yeah, right.  I served it with the rest of the wine, an Alsatian Sylvaner, and that was all the accompaniment it needed.

 Choucroute Garnie

It was a pretty easy dish to make (in one pot, no less!), and as a bonus, we have lots of delicious leftovers.  That red sausage was so good, it elicited a “wow!” from both Nick and me.  It was smoky, but with a distinctive flavor we couldn’t quite name.  The white sausages were good, too, akin to hot dogs (frankfurters) in color and texture, but with a meatier, warm-spiced flavor.  The poitrine basically disintegrated into the dish, infusing every bite with meaty goodness.  I highly recommend you try this at home.








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