24 November 2009

Poulet fumé et choucroute

One of the nice products we get here is whole chickens that are smoked and sold fully cooked. The wood used for the smoking is beechwood.

You can eat the smoked chickens cold or you can heat them up one way or another. The directions on the package say to put the whole chicken, unwrapped, in the microwave for three minutes. That doesn't sound very good to me, but putting the whole chicken in a 300ºF oven for 15 or 20 minutes works pretty well.

Poulet fumé au bois de hêtre

Another thing to do is to cut the chicken in half and heat up one half for now, saving the other for later. Luckily, a friend recently sent us a big serrated knife that is just perfect for the job. Thanks, Peter.

Nice knife for cutting a cooked chicken
in half, right through the bones

Smoked chicken would be good with many side dishes, but the one that comes to mind right now is sauerkraut. That's because this is really the choucroute season. I'm not sure if you ever think of eating sauerkraut as a vegetable, but according to the books I read it is very digestible and nutritious. That's my experience too. And it can be delicious, fixed right.

The package from the grocery store

Sauerkraut is shredded cabbage that has been salted and left to marinate and ferment in brine. The salt draws a lot of moisture out of the cabbage leaves, and then the sauerkraut can benefit from long cooking. In France it is usually cooked in white wine. It's mild and slightly sweet when you eat it. I've written about preparing and cooking it before, here, here and here.

Sauerkraut cooked with smoked bacon, onions,
carrots, white wine, and spices

Usually the sauerkraut is cooked with some smoked pork lardons, onions, and sliced carrots, and that's the way I like it. It's seasoned with black pepper, cloves or allspice, bay leaves, and juniper berries. The sauerkraut I bought was labeled as having already been cooked in wine, but I wish I had rinsed it well in cold water and then re-seasoned it myself. It was slightly more sour than I like. Usually, I buy raw sauerkraut, but it seems to be harder and harder to find nowadays. Everybody wants everything pre-cooked.

The other standard accompaniment to sauerkraut is little boiled potatoes. Just boil them whole, in their skins.

I started enjoying sauerkraut when I taught English in Metz,
in the Lorraine province, thirty years ago.

The smoked chicken is a great substitute for the meats that choucroute are usually served with, or for some of them at least. Instead of a big piece of smoked or brined pork, serve the chicken. You can always add a pork sausage or two to dress it up. The sausages served with sauerkraut are usually smoked or fresh pork sausages (like mild Italian sausages, for example) and frankfurters (known also as saucisses de Strasbourg in France).

I was just looking around on the Safeway web site and I see that they sell smoked chicken breast for $9.00/lb., at least in California. Zut alors ! The smoked chicken I bought, a whole chicken, was 3.89 €/kg. That would come out to 1.77 €/lb., and that's $2.65/lb even with the lousy U.S. dollar exchange rate right now. What a bargain!


  1. $9 a pound is pretty expensive for smoked chicken breast. I have never eaten chicken with "choucroute". It must be really good. You must be glad the weather is not too cold. It is going to be in the 80's in the valleys for the next few days. People at work where disappointed that it was going to be that warm for Thanksgiving day because they wanted to use their fireplace. It does go down to the 50's at night.
    Walt seems very happy to have another chainsaw. He will have to write a blog about his new life as a logger (lol).

  2. Chicken is still cheap in Alabama. We get a whole bird for under $5 here, but I don't think it had a very good life before its death.

    I like choucroute now, but didn't as a child. My parents didn't eat it, but my school's cafeteria served it often.(Louisville has many German settlers) I can still remember the awful smell it gave out;-) I always thought it was cooked in vinegar. Your blog is making me smarter!

  3. Wish I had a knife like that, as the pair of poultry scissor that I bought some years ago are completely useless to half a chicken or any bird for that matter.

    The combination of smoked chicken and choucroute sounds delicious. Thanks for the tip! Martine

  4. Pork and sauerkraut is one of the zillion dishes we MUST have on the Thanksgiving table. I used to think sauerkraut was pretty much limited to the Pa Dutch area, but I was wrong. Even my grandmother stopped making her own sauerkraut because it's available throughout PA. It comes in cans or plastic bags and then you bake it with pork cubes. Delicious. And then there's Cope's corn....

  5. That is one PLUMP bird!
    We buy a roasted-at-the-store little bird now and then... very, very handy for a quick meal. Not smoked, though. I don't think I'd care for smoked poultry.

    I usually give the carcass to my mom to make chicken soup from :)


  6. I'm not fond of smoked meats of any kind. I like sauerkraut but haven't had any in a very long time.

  7. Carolyn, I would love to taste that PA sauerkraut and pork one day. I'll have to look up Cope's corn and see what that is.

    Judy, when you come to France, we'll try some smoked chicken. You'll be surprised how good it is.

    Starman, tant pis pour vous !


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