That's what some of my photos look like. The traditional Alsatian sauerkraut serving is a big mound of sauerkraut and half a dozen different meats, which can be varied by the cook. Here's what mine looked like in the serving dish. Farther down, there's a photo of the choucroute as it came out of the oven. I put in the meats, all pre-cooked, on top of the chou to heat through at the very end of the cooking time.
There was enough cabbage and meat here for 2 or 3 meals for 2 people. The choucroute itself cooked for about four hours in the oven at low temperature. I should have cooked it in the slow-cooker, and next time that's what I'll do. After all, I bought three kilos of choucroute crue and I only cooked one kilo yesterday. The cooking liquid was mostly water with just about a cup and a half of white wine. One of the meats I like to include, along with smoked sausages and smoked pork belly, is smoked chicken, which is easy to find here in France.
There are theories about the carrots. A lot of recipes for cooking choucroute call for them, and a lot don't. One that does is Monique Maine's, and her 1969 cookbook Cuisine pour toute l'année is one of my favorites. Some cooks call for putting the carrots into the dish with the cabbage but removing them at the end of the cooking time and not serving them with the cabbage and meat. One thing I've read is that the carrots counteract the sharpness of the sauerkraut, which is after all produced by a fermentation process that creates lactic acid. I wouldn't leave them out any more than I would leave out the onions.
Some recipes and opinions I've read says not to cook the sauerkraut in white wine, because the wine has an acidic character that only accentuates the acidity that is what makes choucroute tasty and not bland. Other cooks say the choucroute should be served only with meats that are specifically Alsatian, which means don't serve it with the "foreign" sausages called Montbéliard and Morteau that come from the neighboring Franche-Comté region. And certainly don't replace the saucisses de Strasbourg with saucisses de Francfort! I'm not that kind of purist.
Here's a recipe for preparing choucroute from a book called La Cuisine alsacienne that was given to me as a gift a few years ago by my friend Martine from Belgium. It doesn't mention carrots. This is my translation.
3 to 3½ lbs. sauerkraut
1 clove garlic
5 or 6 Tbsp. goose fat
2 bay leaves
2 whole cloves
2 cups Sylvaner wine
2 ham hocks
2 pieces of smoked pork shoulder
¾ lb. slab of smoked bacon
6 large potatoes
6 Strasboug sausages (wieners)
Salt and pepper
Rinse the sauerkraut in cold water. Drain it and rinse it a second time. Squeeze the cabbage to remove all the rinse water.
In a big pot, cook the onion, sliced, and the garlic in hot goose fat.Add the rinsed sauerkraut in the pot. Salt and pepper it. Add the bay leaves and whole cloves. Pour in the Sylvaner wine and about a cup of water. Let it cook for an hour on medium heat, stirring occasionally to mix all the ingredients and flavors together.
Add the ham hocks, the smoked pork shoulder, and the slab of bacon to the pot. Let everything cook together for 90 minutes on medium heat, adding water as necessary to keep the sauerkraut moistened.
Peel the potatoes and put them on top of the cabbage to cook for 20 minutes. Separately, poach the wieners for 5 minutes.
Spoon the sauerkraut into a big serving dish. Serve the meats, sausages, and steamed potatoes over it or alongside.
The total cooking time for this recipe is 3¼ hours. Don't let a lack of goose fat in your kitchen deter you — use a little lard or bacon fat plus some vegetable oil as a substitute. Sylvaner is a semi-sweet Alsace wine, but you can use any dry or semi-dry white wine. By the way, the French recipe calls for making, cooking, and serving with the choucroute something called quenelles de foie (liver dumplings), for which there's a recipe in the book. I've never made or eaten those so I left them out. As I've said, I like to have smoked chicken with sauerkraut, and I know that some people eat it with boiled beef or other meats. CHM once had sauerkraut with duck confit in one restaurant, but I don't think he would recommend it.