back in melbourne i was eating at a german restaurant and ordered something called the farmer’s platter. now, it was in german, and was called something like “bauenteller”? i dunno. all i can be certain of is that is was a huge heap of different chunks of pork, sauerkraut, potatoes, and dumplings.
it was a big, big meal for a big bloke. they served beer in one litre handles.
at the end of that i was both pissed and not hungry.
you can imagine my surprise then at finding a recipe called choucroute garnie in my new anthony bourdain cookbook. now, i prepared this dish last night after hunting around for outlets last weekend, and they’re not too difficult to find. and to my delight it is very easy to source most of the ingredients of this particular dish.
as a service to pretentious gourmet’s like myself all over wellington, i thought i’d relate exactly what you needed to make this extremely delicious dish, and more importantly, where you can find them.
i only went to two places. mediterrean warehouse in newtown, your one-stop shop for any spice you can imagine. and, moore wilsons, everyone’s favourite over-priced outlet.
ok. so from med. warehouse i bought a huge bag of juniper berries. this is all. i also bought other stuff like harissa paste, sumac, a giant jar of green olives (no kalamata in stock…) but juniper berries is all you need.
moore wilsons was a bigger shop. the bourdain recipe calls for a bunch of different types of cured pork, but i figured that we could get away without quite as much, because we were only feeding two of us. what this means is that where you’d normally buy frankfurters, white veal sausages, smoked pork loin and salted pork belly, all you actually need is at least one type of sausage, and at least one type of whole pork.
pretty much everything else you need for this dish you can buy at the supermarket. except one no-so-secret but extremely luxurious item. duck fat.
from moore wilsons we bought:
- duck fat (it only comes in a 300g punnet, but no worries. duck fat is good for all kinds of things)
- smoked pork loin (this is vacuum-sealed. if you can find decent smoked loin at the supermarket, buy it. it usually comes as a slab of pork, so chop it long-ways into 1cm wide slices)
- polish sausage (veal sausage is wankery. just buy a smoked sausage of some kind. we would have bought frankfurters, but you have to buy too many, whereas polish sausage, or rookwurst, you can buy fairly cheaply to get the same effect. the whole idea of this dish is that it’s peasant food)
- sauerkraut (now this is very important. do not buy cheap sauerkraut, especially that crap in a can. it tastes bloody awful, and if you’re experimenting with this type of food you’ll spoil it for yourself. moore wilsons sells these 500g imported bags that are just the ticket.)
and that is all.
other stuff you’ll need is, a bay leaf. now, never ever buy bay leaves. the things grow in peoples front gardens all over wellington. i knicked my from a tree on tasman street. coriander seeds, from the supermarket. a bottle of white wine, such as a riesling. a finely chopped garlic clove. half a small onion, finely chopped. salt/pepper. grainy mustard as a garnish.
so here’s how to make it.
- first, rinse half the bag of the sauerkraut generously in cold water to take away the pickling agent (or all the kraut, depends how hungry you are). drain thoroughly in a colander and set aside.
- melt half a tablespoon of the duck fat gently in a biggish pot, and when it’s warm add the onion. heat gently till the onion is translucent.
- add the garlic, the coriander seeds, the bay leaf, the juniper berries, 1 and 1/2 cups white wine, the salt/pepper and the half bag of sauerkraut to the pot.
- heat gently till simmering, then add the chopped smoked pork loin. bring back to a simmer, then cover and leave to cook gently for 1 and a half hours.
- seriously. one and a half hours. in the meantime you can drink some of the remaining bottle (or cask) of riesling, and, put the spuds on to boil.
the trick with this dish is that the simmering brings all the flavours together, and reduces down the ingredients to a “glassy” sauce. so don’t be too literal with the time-frame. as soon as your spuds are cooked drain the water off them into the sink, set them aside, and start keeping an eye on the sauerkraut.
- when the liquid in the pot is starting to look a little sparse (not too sparse, if this runs dry you’re sunk), whip the polish sausage out of the packet, cut it into two portions, and pop them in the pot. continue the simmering, until the sausage is warmed through.
- if your spuds have gone cold, this is the time to pop them back into some boiling water for a sec.
- the sausage is cooked when you prick it with a fork and clear liquid (*cough* fat *cough*) runs out of it.
- to serve, pop the spuds on two plates, pile half the sauerkraut in the middle of each, and give both plates half the sausage, and half the beef. garnish with a little grainy mustard.
(and, here’s the ingredient list again, for your convenience)
a tablespoon of duck fat
half a small onion, very finely chopped
a clove of garlic, chopped
a bottle of white wine (riesling?)
maybe half dozen juniper berries
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 bay leaf
one bag sauerkraut
an amount of smoked pork loin, as much as you prefer
one polish sausage (or rookwurst)
spuds. as many as you need for two people.
PS. if you’re a vegetarian, just don’t add any meat, and use olive oil.