|Choucroute Garnie. (Courtesy of Andre Laurent)
I was in the mood for sausages.
Not that I need any special mood to partake of one of my favourite foods. When it comes to meat, I’m not a thick-steak-cooked-rare kind of gal, not when there are well-seasoned crisp brown sausages on offer. In the summer, the barbecue delivers the goods, but in winter, I like to take a classic French approach to sausages and create a satisfying Choucroute Garnie – in other words, a large casserole of comfort that includes sauerkraut braised in apples, onions and white wine and generously garnished (garnie) with sausages. Served with boiled potatoes and dollops of mustard, it’s a dinner to come home to after a sporty day in the snow, or for casual weekend dinner for friends who are lusty eaters.
A second simpler version of the dish is one my father used to make when I was growing up in Stratford, Ont. It’s fast enough for a weeknight supper. The key to both sausages suppers is, of course, good sausages. Check out farmers’ markets and local butcher shops or delis for the best selection.
A butcher shop or deli where the food is from northern or eastern Europe will provide the range of suggested fresh sausages – garlic sausages, farmers’, Octoberfest, Toulouse, bratwurst and or frankfurters. Buy a variety, or stick with your favourites. For the sauerkraut, look for deli-made or a jarred brand that has only the 2 essential ingredients: cabbage and salt.
- 4 lb. (1.8 kg) sauerkraut
- 1/2 lb. (250 g) thick-cut double smoked bacon
- 2 large mild onions, peeled and diced
- 2 large apples, peeled, cored and sliced
- 4 large cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2 tsp. (2 ml) freshly ground pepper
- 10 juniper berries, lightly crushed or 1 tsp. (5 ml) caraway seeds
- 1 bottle (750 ml) white wine, Riesling suggested
- 8 sausages (see above), about 3 to 4 lb. (1.375 to 1.75 kg)
- 3 lb. (1.375 g) boneless rib end loin of pork
- 16 to 24 small potatoes
Rinse sauerkraut thoroughly in cold water; drain well. Set aside.
Line bottom of a large ovenproof casserole dish or Dutch oven with bacon, overlapping slices if necessary. Arrange half of sauerkraut over bacon. Sprinkle with half of onions, apples, garlic, pepper and juniper berries. Cover with remaining sauerkraut, then rest of onions, apples, garlic, pepper and juniper berries. Pour in wine; cover tightly.
Braise in 325F. (160C.) oven for 3 hours. Toss sauerkraut lightly with fork. Prick sausages. Nestle sausages and loin of pork right into sauerkraut. Cover and braise for 2 hours. Uncover; pull pork and as many sausages as possible to surface of sauerkraut and roast uncovered until browned, about 20 minutes. Remove sausages and loin of pork to cutting board and cover to let rest for about 10 minutes. Keep sauerkraut mixture hot in turned off oven.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan of boiling lightly salted water, cover and cook potatoes until fork tender, about 20 minutes. Drain, toss with a little butter to glaze their surface.
Cut loin of pork crosswise into 1/4-inch (5 mm) thick slices; cut sausages on diagonal into thick slices. Pile sauerkraut onto a large warm platter, including a generous amount of juices. Arrange slices of loin of pork and sausages attractively over sauerkraut. Pass potatoes separately.
Serves 8 hungry people.
Simple Sausages Supper
Fresh, not smoked, farmers’ sausage or garlic sausage are good choices for this hearty skillet supper.
- 2 tsp. (10 ml) canola oil
- 4 farmers’ sausages, about 1 1/2 lb. (750 g)
- 2 onions, chopped
- 1 large apple, peeled, cored and sliced
- 2 large cloves garlic, sliced
- 1/2 tsp. (2 ml) caraway seeds
- 1/4 tsp. (1 ml) freshly ground pepper
- 2 cups (500 ml) sauerkraut, well rinsed and drained
- 2 cups (500 ml) apple cider, chicken stock or apple juice
- 4 medium-large potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
In a deep skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Prick sausages; brown on both sides in skillet, covering skillet and reducing heat if necessary to prevent spattering. Remove sausages from skillet and set aside.
Drain off all but a skim of fat from skillet; reduce heat to medium. Add onions, apples, garlic, caraway seeds and pepper; saute until onions are soft, about 7 minutes. Stir in sauerkraut; pour in apple cider. Nestle the sausages into the sauerkraut mixture and arrange the potatoes overtop. Cover and simmer until sausages are cooked through and potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.
Again, mustard is the right accompaniment.
Makes 4 servings.