Some things in life were never meant to be updated. A rewritten version of Great Expectations, for example, would fall far short of the original. Nothing is quite as lovely and elegant as the original Coco Chanel tweed suit. The Plaza hotel in New York, now renovated, cannot hold a candle to the original elegance of The Plaza of old. Perfect the first time, such things age gracefully.
Other things, like iPhones and Prius-es and Choucroute usually improve with every generation. Normally, my renovation of classic French dishes is inspired by how much I adore the original version. Occasionally, it is my distaste for the original version that goads me into developing the, say, Second Generation of Choucroute. It’s a rare thing, but it happens.
In this week’s French in a Flash, I recount an episode of when my father and I took Mr. English to Chez X (our favorite uptown French restaurant despite the events of that evening), so that I might impress him with a lovely French dinner. He ordered the choucroute, a crock pot steaming with sauerkraut, sausages, and par-boiled bits of pale ham. It was awful.
In honor of Mr. English’s 25th birthday, and in yet another attempt to impress him, I reinvented it, and brought some twenty-first century youth to an ancient dish. The sauerkraut is replaced with braised Savoy cabbage, topped with a melange of sausages, steamed in traditional Alsatian Riesling and crisped in butter. Whole grain mustard and a thick pan gravy (Mr. English’s favorite) finish the dish. Voila! Choucroute Nouvelle. As always, the whole post, article and recette, can be found at Serious Eats. Bon app!
- 12 links assorted large sausages
- 2 tablespoons butter
- About 1 bottle Riesling
- Salt and pepper
- Melt the butter in a sauté pan with high sides on medium heat. Arrange the sausages in the pan, and brown for 2 minutes, until a little crust appears on the bottom sides. While they’re cooking, use the point of a sharp knife to stab each sausage three times along its length, leaving little nostrils for the sausages to “breathe” through while they cook. At the end of the 2 minutes, flip the sausages and create the same holes on the reverse side.
- Add enough Riesling to cover the sausages about 2/3 the way up. You don’t need to wait for the other side to brown. Reserve at least ¼ cup of the wine, but chances are, you won’t even need that much. Season the cooking liquid with salt and pepper. Flip the sausages every so often as they cook.
- Allow most of the wine to boil off. After about 40 minutes, there will be very little liquid left, and it will be stained with sausage juices and thick. The sausages will begin to brown, so knock the heat down to medium.
- When the sausages are crisp and golden on both sides, remove them from the pan to a plate. Add in the ¼ cup of Riesling you reserved earlier, and whisk the pan sauce.
- Plate the choucroute by mounding the braised Savoy cabbage in a large, wide bowl. Then slice all the sausages in half on a angle and arrange them on top. Pour the pan sauce down over the whole thing, and garnish with fresh flat leaf parsley. Serve with Dijon mustard and cornichons.
Mustard-Braised Cabbage Ingredients
- 1 head Savoy cabbage, quartered, cored, and cut into ½-inch strips
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Riesling
- 1 ½ tablespoons butter, plus 1 tablespoon
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 20 chives, quartered
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
- 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
- Salt and pepper
Mustard-Braised Cabbage Procedure
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add the apple cider vinegar, Riesling, and a handful of salt.
- Add the cabbage to the water, and blanch for 3 minutes. Drain, and run until cold water.
- In the same pot, that is now dry, put the heat on low, and add 1 ½ tablespoon butter and the olive oil. When the butter is melted, add the chives, parsley, and cabbage, and raise the heat to medium-high. Season with salt and cracked black pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes until most of the excess water has evaporated. Stir in the mustard.
- Put the braised cabbage in a large bowl, and top with the remaining tablespoon of butter. Top with the sausages.