It is the national Alsatian dish, a huge favorite in bistros and at tables devoted to traditional European Cuisine. It straddles French and German Cuisine frontiers, and merges them beautifully.
Choucroute is the French etymological take on Sauerkraut, the beloved and ubiquitous fermented cabbage. That’s delicious and deliciously funky probiotic food. The pungent and briny old classic is back in fashion in all artisanal kitchens (Check out my sauerkraut soup!) Scatter a handful sauerkraut in your sandwich or your salad, and watch it go to a whole other level. This particular sauerkraut dish is called Choucroute Garnie (garnished), because it always comes with all the bells and whistles. Needless to say, you get a complete meal out of it, and then some. It’s the dream winter comfort food!
You will find dozens of riffs on the dish. And believe me, the finished dish can get quite luxurious (foie gras, champagne and other heady stuff), but there are some constant ingredient groups:
- A nice hunk of meat selected for great braising: Flanken, beef cheeks, pot roast etc
- A nice chunk of smoked meat
- Sausage links
- Marrow bones
- Sauerkraut. Duh!
I’m getting you started with the basic classic rustic version. Once you have all the constant components in place, go ahead and customize it to your personal preferences. I am giving you a great basic recipe here! You will love the low maintenance way the whole dish cooks. And you will love that it makes a complete meal.
Is Heathy Choucroute an Oxymoron?
The classic can err on the rich and splurge-y side, with its excess of fatty sausage links and bacon slabs. But I honestly think it can be adapted to a much more sensible and wholesome version, without losing any of its exciting layers of flavor and texture. Just starting out with fermented cabbage and smoked meats is in itself the promise of a fabulous treat.
I know it can involve multiple steps, but you know me: I am nothing if not a utilitarian, and I look for natural ways to simplify all recipes I compose. Just as long as you use nothing but the real thing in the dish, it will always come out great. Don’t skip the flavorings that are the trademarks of choucroute: Juniper berries (responsible for the flavor of gin), and caraway seeds
- 3 pounds flanken, or beef cheeks (rinse them well)
- 5-6 marrow bones
- 1 pound natural smoked turkey breast, cut across, then sliced
- 6 cups water
- 1/3 cup olive oil (if you can procure duck fat, it would be the best choice)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 8 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cheesecloth containing: 2 tablespoons slightly crushed juniper berries, 1 tablespoon caraway seeds, 4 cloves, 3 tablespoons peppercorns, 4-5 bay leaves, 8-10 sprigs thyme
- 1 bottle dry white wine or Riesling
- 2 1/2 pounds sauerkraut, drained
- 1 pound natural sausage links, sliced one inch thick
- 2 pounds very small potatoes
In a wide heavy pot, bring the flanken, bones, turkey and water to a boil. Reduce to medium and cook covered 1 1/2 hours.
Add all but last ingredients and cook on medium low 1 1/2 hours. Add the sausage and potatoes, burying them into the pot, and cook another 30 minutes.
Remove the cheesecloth . Pour the choucroute onto a platter and serve hot, with crusty bread and Dijon mustard.
Makes 8 servings