What do you do if you have some good pork and don’t quite know what to do with it? Get some sauerkraut, a bottle of good Alsatian wine (Riesling is what most would suggest, but my favorite is Gewurtztraminer), and make choucroute garnie.
What happened was this. I had been seeing some ads from Mosefund Farms, the local purveyors of Mangalitsa pork products, a variety of pig originally from Hungary. Mosefund’s product is quite an artisanal sort of thing, thus much more expensive than the average pork; but it is also much better for you (there are those who say that eating the fat from Mangalitsa pork will actually lower your cholesterol!). But since it had been years since we had had any of Mosefund’s pork, I decided to order a variety of things: sausages, chops, a tenderloin, some ham and a tub of lardo. The price made me cringe a bit, but I bit my lip and sent the order through.
A couple days later, the order arrived, and my excitement was dampened a bit: the tenderloin and the pork chops, everything really, looked so small. In my mind I had been thinking I would get several meals out of the products I had bought, but obviously that was not going to be the case. I put it all in the fridge and moved on. I told Therese about it, and she said, well, why not make choucroute garnie.
Whenever we visit France, or go to Alsatian restaurants (like one of our favorite NYC restaurants, Cafe d’Alsace), I will often order choucroute garnie. It is a dish that is always dairy free (no heavy cream sauces to worry about), and it is hearty and always incredibly satisfying. And the amount of pork it contains – always sausages, usually some salt pork and ham – makes it something I would have just for a treat. But I had never imagined actually making it at home!
The good news is that it is pretty easy to make. Brown your pork in a large skillet or saute pan (a big one since this is where the whole dish is going to be), rinse the sauerkraut and dry it a bit, cook some onion and garlic in the pan with the pork drippings (and some duck fat), then add the sauerkraut, chicken stock and some of the white wine, juniper berries, caraway seeds, bay leaves, salt and pepper, and bring that to a boil. I sliced a winesap apple and added that to the sauerkraut, but that is completely optional.
Add the pork products – in my case, in addition to my two chops and tenderloin, I added 4 sausages and half a dozen slices of ham. Put a lid on it, and bake it in a 300 degree oven for 75-90 minutes.
When you order choucroute in a restaurant, it usually comes with boiled potatoes, but Therese asked that I make mashed potatoes. So I peeled and chopped up 4 Yukon Gold potatoes, covered them with water in a covered saucepan, brought it to a boil and cooked them for about 15 minutes. Then I mashed the potatoes, put the heat back on, added some salt, pepper, almond milk, a couple tablespoons of the lardo, whisked it until it was nice and creamy, and that was our side dish.
To serve the choucroute, you simply spread a couple spoonfuls of sauerkraut on your plate, put a sausage and some other meat on top, and put a mound of mashed potatoes alongside it. I had saved most of the wine, and we each had a glass of that with our dinner.