We got our first snow this weekend, with a vengeance! Saturday was breezy and cold, and a light snow fell all afternoon, but then it really picked up overnight and by Sunday morning we had a good 5 inches on the ground. Too bad I had to go to work on Sunday – fortunately I have a very short commute.
But at least I had Saturday at home, and it was a good one. We picked up our Christmas tree in the morning from a local tree farm, and I was able to spend the afternoon in the house, making a batch of caramels, decorating the tree, and putting together a choucroute garni for dinner. It simmered away quietly in the oven, perfuming the house with the scent of cabbage and pork, while we fussed about with stockings and ornaments.
My version of choucroute garni varies a bit, but I have never once followed an actual recipe. I pull out some rather vague instructions from a couple of cooking classes, maybe glance at Tony Bourdain’s version (the intro to which begins, “Oh, steaming heap of pork!”) and proceed to generally ignore all of them. Here’s how this particular batch came to be:
I sliced some bacon into lardons and sauteed them until they released their fat, then I add a sliced sweet onion and most of a head of shredded cabbage. This all cooked down together and got a bit browned, then I added a bay leaf, a large pinch of caraway seeds, a jar of Fahrmann’s sauerkraut (drained but not rinsed) and half a bottle of Bass beer. I let that simmer until the beer was almost gone, then I added an entire kielbasa sausage, cut into bite-size pieces, a small container of chicken stock and most of the rest of the beer, poured the whole mess into a Dutch oven (which I should have started it in in the first place), covered it, put it in a 350° oven and left it alone for about an hour and a half.
By the time it came out of the oven, the cabbage and onions had braised into complete tenderness and the flavor of the sausage and sauerkraut had melded into everything. We ate big scoops of it with a slightly sour multigrain bread and stoneground mustard. I was going to cook some potatoes but I completely forgot. I also opened a northwest Riesling that I thought would be perfect, but it was maybe a touch too flowery to be an ideal match. Still, we ate and drank by the newly decorated tree with snow falling outside and felt that all was well.