I have mentioned it before and I will probably always think this way, that in most cases, across multiple cultures, peasant food is the best food.
The poor folks have had to do much more with much less and had to find a way to survive. They did it with grace, lots of love, and even beauty.
The choucroute garnie is such a dish. Simple in its design but super delicious and hard to screw up.
The choucroute garnie, literally translates as “garnished sauerkraut” and has heritage in Europe, specifically France, where most food historians say the dish originated from the Alsace region, near the German border.
The choucroute garnie is essentially scraps of meat, most often pork, slowly cooked (braised) in hearty vegetables like cabbage, kraut, and onions. You could probably do potatoes, other root veg like carrots and rutabaga and parsnips. All of that in a dish with the pork cuts nestled on top and a bottle of beer, wine, cider, or even water would be delicious. Throw in some mustard and caraway seeds, some bay leaves and maybe some juniper and you are asking for trouble, a delicious kind of trouble.
I have made this several times. A few in my oven but mostly on my Traeger. I typically serve it when there are a lot of people, especially those that share my same philosophy on simple and delicious, “poor people” food.
Serve it for Sunday dinner. Hosting your friends. A book club where there are no books. You name it, you can do it. The choucroute garnie has never let me down and probably hasn’t let anyone down from France over the last century or two either.
1/2 head of cabbage, sliced thin
1 quart sauerkraut
2 large onions, sliced
4 bay leaves
1 T caraway seeds and juniper berries
1-2 lb pork shoulder
1 lb smoked sausage
1 pork tenderloin
1 bottle Riesling, 3 cups beer, cider, stock or water
Put all veg on bottom of roasting pan, add meat and generously salt and pepper. Pour over wine or beer or whatever. Cover with aluminum foil. Cook at 300 degrees for 2 hours. Uncover and cook at 450 degrees for 25-45 minutes or until middle of pork shoulder is at 165 degrees. I usually like to add the sausage half way.
Serve with baguette, great butter, and as many unique mustards as you can find.
Let people pull off some meat, or slice it nicely if you like, and pile on high the kraut, cabbage, and onions and serve with a hunk of bread and butter and a favorite mustard or two.