Sunday, May 22, 2011

Braised sauerkraut

This is choucroute garnie without the garnie -- sauerkraut braised with wine and aromatics.  My version is vegetarian and pareve, but you can vary it for me, or use it as a base to braise meat, especially things like short ribs. The quantity that I give is a substantial side dish for four.  You can double it, and it keeps well.  It is easy enough that you shouldn't have to wait for an ocassion to make it:

Braised sauerkraut (basic version)

  • 1 pound sauerkraut
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 2 carrots, chopped fine
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped fine
  • 2 tablespoons gin (optional, and if not using juniper berries)
  • 1/2 cup dry white white wine or vermouth
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth (I use water with some Osem powder, so sue me)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 juniper berries, lightly crushed (optional)
  • pinch of thyme
  • few grindings of pepper

  1. Drain the sauerkraut, an put it to soak in a bowl of cold water while you do the chop and saute the aromatics.
  2. Saute the onion, carrot and celery  in the oil on medium until soft but not brown in a large covered skillet or 2-3 quart pot.
  3. Drain the sauerkraut again, and squeeze out the water.  It does not need to be bone dry, but it should not be dripping wet either.  
  4. Add the sauerkraut and saute for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add gin if using, and boil for a minute.  Add the wine and broth and bring to the boil.
  6. Add bay leaves, thyme, pepper and juniper berries, if you are using them.
  7. Simmer the kraut on medium low for at least a half hour, or up to an hour or more if you have time.
  8. That's it.  It goes well with boiled potatoes, mushroom dishes, roasted meats, etc. and also on a vegetarian Reuben sandwich. (I will post this in a few days.)

Fancy version:  tie 5 peppercorns, a pinch or spring of thyme, 2 lightly crushed juniper berries, and 2 bay leaves in a cheesecloth bag.  This is called bouquet garni.  If you are being so fancy, you should use vegetable broth rather than bouillon. 

Even fancier, Polish version:  Use the bouquet garni.  Soak about 1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms in hot water to cover until soft.  (I put them in a pyrex measuring dish, cover with water, and zap for a few minutes.)  Remove the mushrooms, rinse, chop and add to the sauteed vegetables and saute a few minutes before you add the sauerkraut.  Strain the soaking liquid to remove grit, and use instead of the broth.  Use a few tablespoons of Madeira or port instead of some of the wine.  I would leave out the juniper berries here, but many would not. 

Meat version:  Use schmaltz (rendered chicken, goose or duck fat) instead of the oil, and be more generous with it.  Use chicken or beef broth if you have homemade on hand.  This is wonderful to braise short ribs:  double the recipe, and brown the ribs before adding them to the kraut.  Braise 2 1/2 hours until tender. 

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