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 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.