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IMG_7035No other dish shows off the richly varied charcuterie of Alsace quite like choucroute (the key difference between choucroute and sauerkraut is that choucroute is always cooked in wine).  This recipe was adapted from one of eight different varieties served at Maisons Kammerzell, a legendary choucroute institution in Strasbourg. This typical Alsatian preparation, now considered a national specialty, has been around for centuries. It existed in the 1500s but then was often accompanied by fried herring, snails and other unusual items. Choucroute Garnie commonly features pork in all its glory. In this recipe I have used ham hocks (pork knuckle), smoked ham, slab bacon, pork breast as well as several kinds of sausages, Montbéliard, Strasbourg sausages and frankfurters. These are the three kinds used in the traditional recipe. Feel free to use kielbasa, bratwurst, any good assortment of pork sausages if you cannot find the ones I used. Like cassoulet, pot au feu, and so many other examples of France’s regional cuisine, its origin is in a traditional, inexpensive dish, but fancy versions (such as choucroute royale, made with champagne instead of wine), and expensive ingredients (such as Foie gras and wild game) are now found in restaurants all over the country.

IMG_7036Serves 8

Ingredients:

1 ham hock or pork knuckle, about 1 1/2 pounds / 650 g
1 smoked pork shoulder or ham, about 1 pound / 500 g
Slab bacon 1/2 pound / 225 g
Pickled pork breast (see note) 2/3 pound / 300 g
Raw sauerkraut 4 pounds / 2 kg
2 onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup goose fat, duck fat or butter
bouquet garnie:
1 head of garlic
3 cloves
10 juniper berries
5 coriander seeds
6 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
3 1/2 cups Alsatian riesling or other dry but fruity white wine
4 smoked Montbéliard sausages
6 Strasbourg sausages
6 frankfurters
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 medium potatoes, peeled

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 180C /350 F
Place the ham hock in a large saucepan
Cover with cold water, bring to a simmer, and let simmer gently for about 60 minutes skimming off from time to time the foam that rises to the surface
Rinse the sauerkraut several times in fresh water
Drain thoroughly
Make your bouquet garnie by tying all the items for it in a small piece of cheesecloth
In a large, heavy bottomed pot, melt the goose fat over medium heat
Add the onions and sauté until soft
Add the sauerkraut, wine, ham hocks, ham, slab bacon, pickled breast and bouquet garnie
Season with salt and pepper
Cover and place in the oven for about 1 1/2 hours
About 30 minutes before serving, place whole potatoes in a pot of boiling water and cook until tender
Also 30 minutes before serving, add the Montbéliard sausages to the pot with the sauerkraut
Melt some fat in a skillet over medium heat and brown the Strasbourg sausages
Place the frankfurters in a pan with boiling water and poach gently
To serve, spoon choucroute onto a large platter
Slice the ham, bacon, pickled breast and arrange on the choucroute with the ham hock
Add the sausages and the boiled potatoes
Serve with strong mustard
Enjoy!

note:
If you cannot find pickled pork breast, blanch a raw pork breast in boiling, salted water and drain. Then simmer it in a saucepan of water with a bay leaf for about an hour before continuing with the recipe.
Montbéliard are small smoked sausages. Other smoked pork sausages such as kabanos or kielbasa can be substituted. Bratwurst can be substituted for the saucisse de strasbourg.

 

 

 

 

 

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