Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pork with Sauerkraut, Onions and Mushrooms

Sauerkraut is a smell and taste I associate with my Grandmother. She made pork chops with it and spare ribs. I’m sure it had much to do with Grandpa’s German stock and my family’s own Eastern European heritage where cabbage is king.

This is the perfect autumnal dish. It easily serves two and the ingredients are inexpensive. The meat from a ham hock can be tough, so be sure to give it a good dice. Keep the mashed potatoes simple and on the thick side.

I use inexpensive “pork sizzlers.” Don’t use a pork chop—way too dry and thin. You want a kind of fatty pork with lots of flavor and on the thick side. Pork butt or Boston Butt is just fine. I use an enamel-lined, cast-iron Dutch oven.

This is not the prettiest dish for serving. But it more than makes up for it in taste. Feel free to add a carrot or two for some added color and a flurry of parsley for presentation.

Ham hocks once were cheap. Not anymore. And I'm having a difficult time finding them. Sliced, smoked ham shanks work well, too. One could add smoked kielbasa, but I prefer the ham hock. 

Serves 2-3

1 hefty cup cubed pork (a good 8 oz. or 1/2 pound)
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion (4 oz)
1 cup peeled, diced Golden Delicious apple
1/2-3/4 cup freshly chopped button mushrooms, stems removed
1 8-ounce can plain or Bavarian-style sauerkraut
Garlic powder
Dried rubbed sage
Dry white wine
Canned chicken stock
1 smoked ham hock, rinsed

Preheat oven to 300-350.

Drain and squeeze the sauerkraut but save the can juices. Rinse it in a sieve under cold water. Squeeze dry.

Place the saved juice in a one-cup measuring cup. Add enough dry white wine to make 1/2 cup. Now add the chicken stock to make one cup.

Sautee the onions and mushrooms in a small pan with a bit of butter and olive oil until they soften and the mushrooms begin to give up their juices. Remove from heat and save.

Dust the cubed pork with a bit of garlic powder and the rubbed sage. In a small, heavy Dutch oven, melt a bit of butter and olive oil. Add the cubed pork and cook until it begins to brown. Add the chopped apples and stir. Add the onion and mushrooms. Stir. Now add the drained sauerkraut. Stir. Add the one-cup of liquid and the ham hock. Stir, cover, and bring to a slow simmer. Season with a bit of pepper. The ham hock and chicken stock will give it all the salt it needs.

Remove from heat and place in oven. Slow cook for about 1 hour. Periodically uncover and check to see that it doesn’t dry out. You don’t want the sauerkraut to brown. If necessary, add a bit more stock or water.

When done, remove the ham hock to plate or board to cool. Prepare the potatoes. When the ham hock is cool enough to handle, remove as much meat as possible from it (there won’t be a lot). Finely dice, return to the Dutch oven and stir.

To serve, place a mound of potatoes in the middle of a plate and spoon the sauerkraut/pork mixture on top. This is even better re-heated the next day. Great peasant food!

Note: I have not doubled this recipe and if you do, you may need to adjust the amount of liquid.