11 November 2013

Choucroute garnie, poulet fumé

Saturday morning, starting before 7 o'clock, I got the choucroute cooked in time for lunch. When you start with "fresh" or "raw" sauerkraut — choucroute crue — you have to soak it in cold water for a while, rinse it a couple of times, and then blanch it in unsalted boiling water for 5 minutes. After all that, it's ready to be seasoned and cooked. It simmers for 3½ to 4 hours.

Believe me, it's worth the effort. This choucroute doesn't have any of that cabbagey, sulfury smell that you can get in commercially prepared sauerkraut when you open the can or jar, or even in fresh cabbage when it cooks. It ends up sweet and tender, with a nice texture and taste. It's seasoned with bay leaf, onions, carrots, allspice berries, black peppercorns, and juniper berries. And it cooks slowly in duck fat and white wine.

You can eat choucroute with duck or fish, or just on its own with boiled potatoes, but it's traditional to serve cured and smoked meats with it. On Saturday, we had smoked pork belly (thick sliced bacon), a fat Morteau smoked sausage (from eastern France), a few Strasbourg sausages, and a smoked chicken that I bought at the supermarket (Dia).

I blanched the bacon and then poached the Morteau sausage in simmering water for 30 minutes before I added those meats to the pan, laying them on top of the partially cooked choucroute, to stay hot finish cooking. I also put some saucisses de Strasbourg, which are very similar to saucisses de Francfort, into the pan. Choucroute garnie is a Strasbourg (Alsatian) specialty, after all.

To prepare the smoked chicken — which is sold already cooked (the label says you can eat it cold, right out of the package, but I always cook it a little more before I serve it) — I cut it in half and laid one half on top of the choucroute to cook, covered, for half an hour or so. That way, I know it's completely done. The bacon, sausages, and chicken give some extra flavor to the choucroute as they steam and cook that way. (The other half of the chicken went into the freezer to be cooked and eaten another day, maybe another way.)

Finally, at the Dia supermarket in Saint-Aignan I found, almost by accident two bottles of Alsatian wine, a Sylvaner and a Riesling, to enjoy with the choucroute. I was happy about that. We drank the Sylvaner, and today we'll have the Riesling with choucroute leftovers.

In case you're curious, above is the recipe I follow (or adapt) in preparing choucroute garnie. It's from Monique Maine's Cuisine pour toute l'année, published 40 years ago.


  1. No potatoes? I ate a choucroute (non garnie) yesterday with potatoes. Delicious but not as good as yours I am sure.

  2. I assume "cuire pommes de terre à l'anglais" means "boiled" - see Astérix chez les Bretons where Britons serve everything boiled, including wild boar.

  3. Nadège, I cooked the choucroute and put it all on the table when I realized I had forgotten to cook the potatoes! We ate it without them on Saturday. Today with the leftover choucroute we are definitely having pommes de terre cuites à l'anglaise.

    Yes, Pauline, la cuisson à l'anglaise means boiling or poaching. I did a post about it a few years ago. Here's a link. I think it's important that English expats know what French people think of English cooking methods. Boiling or poaching is certainly not a bad method, in many cases.

  4. Is the choucroute sold from a
    large crock or packaged? There
    are people who ferment their own,
    but apparently one needs an
    organic cabbage. It's the wild
    yeasts on the leaves in combination with the salt that do
    the fermenting.

  5. An old shoe cooked in duck fat and wine would probably taste good!

  6. LOL, BettyAnn.

    Sheila, it is sold from a large vat. Not packaged.

  7. Le poulet dans la choucroute me pose un problème. Thierry MOTTE

    1. Désolé, Thierry, pour ton problème. Et on pense quoi de la choucroute de la mer? Ou au confit de canard?

  8. Bien sur et je suis large d'esprit


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