dark days #13: choucroute feast

Retrogrouch and I dined on the dish I’ve been waiting all year to make, choucroute garnie, for this week’s Dark Days winter eating local challenge.  I’ve been saving my homemade sauerkraut and stocking up on sausages just for this day.  Choucroute garnie (garnished sauerkraut), an Alsatian specialty of baked pork and sausages served over a mound of Riesling-braised sauerkraut, is enjoyed in France on grey, rainy days just like the ones we’ve been having in Eugene.  With our local dry Riesling both in the pot and in the glass, what could be nicer?

This recipe is best, of course, if you make your own choucroute.  This particular batch was made with cabbage from Cinco Estrellas Farm in Junction City.  We used andouille sausage  from Sweet Briar Farm and peppered pancetta was from Biancalana pork growers out of Springfield.  The smoked pork loin chop, hrmm, were from somewhere I don’t recall — I think Long’s — and I’m willing to bet they’re local.

One of the nice things about this dish is the great flexibility in the meats served as the garnish.  You simply need a mix of smoked and mild pork.  I’ve made it with ham, a world of sausages, and even a small hunk of pork shoulder.  I most often use kielbasa because I’m Polish.  Maybe we should call it à la Polonaise?  Yes, maybe we should.

We ate the choucroute with some baked russet potatoes from Ladybug and mustard that was as French as the Marseillaise.

Choucroute Garnie à la Polonaise

Adapted from Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook

Serves 4 – 6, because someone at the table will surely have an agenbite of inwit and stop eating too soon

2 T. rendered duck or chicken fat
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 lbs. sauerkraut
10 juniper berries
1 clove garlic, smashed
3 c. dry Riesling (use one from the Willamette Valley or from Alsace, France)
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp coriander
4 boiled yellow Finn or other waxy potatoes
1 kielbasa or other smoked pork sausage
4 mild sausages, such as boudin blanc or bratwurst, cooked
2 smoked pork loin chops or 4 slices of ham
4 slices of pancetta (or cured pork belly)

Preheat oven to 350.  Heat duck fat in a large pot.  Add the onion, and cook until translucent and slightly golden. Add the sauerkraut, juniper berries, garlic, wine, and spices. You might also add some freshly ground pepper.  Cover and bring to a simmer.

Add the pancetta and smoked chops or ham. Cover and bake in oven for about an hour to meld the flavors.

While the sauerkraut is cooking, boil water for potatoes and to heat up the already cooked mild sausage.  Peel potatoes, leaving them whole.  Boil until just fork-tender.  Remove the potatoes and heat the sausage in the cooking water, about 5 minutes, just before serving.

To serve the choucroute garnie, drain the sauerkraut, if necessary, and mound it in the center of a large serving platter. Arrange meats and boiled potatoes around the sauerkraut. Serve with a variety of mustards, including Dijon and whole-grain.

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