Tuesday, April 18, 2006

“Serves 4 fat bastards”

The choucroute garnie and syllabub form Nigella’s SERIOUS SATURDAY LUNCH FOR 8 – NO HOSTAGES. I added the crostini to the menu because I wanted to use up some gorgonzola which I had lying around.

338. Gorgonzola, Marsala and Mascarpone Crostini (Dinner)
339. Choucroute Garnie (Weekend Lunch)
340. Quince Syllabub (Cooking in Advance)

I have to admit, choucroute garnie, (AKA a big fat German stew), counts as one of those recipes which I’ve been avoiding due to, well, everything. I mean, it’s the pig-heavy ingredients (frankfurters, bratwurst, gammon knuckles), the fact that I’d have to do some special shopping to find them all, and simply because I couldn’t imagine what it would look like or taste like at all. Anthony Bourdain has a recipe (and photo!) of it in his fabulous Les Halles Cookbook, which gave me an idea of what it should be like, and eased my nerves a little bit. However, his recipe is different from Nigella's in that it's more cheffy (naturally) - he tells you to plate it up prettily, specifies smoked pork loin, salted pork belly and boudins blancs, and includes a duck confit and foie gras variation. Ahem. His recipe also has a lot more swearing in it. For instance, the Anthony Bourdain choucroute garnie "serves 4 fat bastards".

I finally made it last night, and served it up to some family friends who I knew would appreciate the effort, even if the food sucked.

We had Uncle Mike and Aunty Helen over, (who have had roast goose, Blakean fish pie, rhubarb crumble, steak & kidney pie and banana custard with us before), as well as Uncle Francis and Aunty Wendy. I haven’t cooked for them before, but they’re really, really cool. In fact, it was Uncle Francis who bought me How to Eat for my 21st birthday last year!

Ok, so here’s the meat. We got it all at Prahran market on Saturday. There’s bratwurst, frankfurters and some ham knuckles. I used less meat than Nigella suggests – she says it doesn’t matter how many sausages you use, as long as everyone can get a piece of each sausage. So you can use less and cut them into smaller pieces.

pile of meat

The choucroute garnie sounds fiddly, but doesn’t really involve that much effort. To start, I softened finely chopped onion in goosefat, then added carrots, the ham knuckles and a bouquet garni. Nigella says to use a popsock to make it, but I only have very very dark ones, and didn’t want a Bridget “dickhead” Jones blue soup happening. I just used a tea strainer.

bouquet garni

So you chuck the bouquet garni in the pot, then add sauerkraut, stir it up, top it with more goosefat, and let it simmer slowly for 2.5 hours.


While that was simmering, I made the syllabub. You’re supposed to make it a couple of days in advance, but I was short on time and did it all today. The recipe says to steep lemon zest and juice in the alcohol for a day, then strain it, before mixing it with cream and sugar and whipping it up. Once you’ve spooned the mixture into individual glasses, you can leave it in the fridge for 2-3 days. What I did was steep the lemon zest in the morning, and finish it off while the choucroute garnie was cooking. I used a mixture of rosé and quince liquer, which resulted in a lovely dusky pink mixture.

syllabub table

Next, I did the crostini topping, which just involves mixing gorgonzola, marsala and mascarpone (I actually used crème fraîche, because I already had some). This can be stashed in the fridge until it is needed. For the bread part of the crostini, you need to slice up a baguette, brush the little slices with olive oil, and toast them in the oven. They need to be cool before putting the topping on.

So all that was left to do was to boil some potatoes as an accompaniment, and to finish the choucroute garnie. In the recipe, Nigella says that you have to remove the ham knuckles and slice the meat off, but I found that after the 2.5 hours simmering, a gentle prod with a wooden spoon was all that was needed to remove the meat. Then I had to grill the bratwurst and add them to the chourcroute garnie with the frankfurters. 30 minutes gentle simmering later, and the sausages are all heated through and the choucroute garnie is done.

And it was dinner time!

Gorgonzola, Marsala and crème fraîche crostini

These were pretty good. Even my dad liked them, despite the includion of blue cheese.

choucroute garnie

Mmm... it smelled great, and tasted good too. It was pretty salty and sour, but not inedibly so. I think I was supposed to rinse the sauerkraut before adding it (well, Anthony Bourdain says to), but Nigella's recipe doesn't say to do so, so I didn't. If I were to make this again, I'd definitely rinse the sauerkraut. The stew was really rich and tasty - those frankfurters were delicious! I now understand why the German woman at the deli recommended them to me so enthusiastically.

As I said, the stew was really salty, but it went well with the bland potatoes - unbuttered boiled potatoes sprinkled with crushed juniper berries.


Uncle Mike: The potatoes are delicious!

We all ate 1-2 potatoes each, but Uncle Mike greedily ate at least 5 of them. Tsk tsk.


I brought out the syllabubs (or should that be syllabi?), after dinner, and they looked suitably impressive.

quince syllabi

Quince syllabub - check out the lovely pink colour!

It tasted good, despite the short steeping time. And they're good for dinner parties as they're easy, impressive, tasty, and can be made in advance.

After dinner, Uncle Francis had a flick through my How to Eat book...

Uncle Francis: I think we're going to have to book ourselves in for this "Deeply Autumnal Dinner for 8"... it sounds good... chestnut and pancetta salad, roast venison fillet...

Usually when I have my friends over, we watch DVDs after dinner, but tonight they pulled out a guitar and started playing. Aah, those wacky adults!

guitar time


domesticgoddess said...

omg, I would kill for a helping of that choucroute garnie. MMMMMMMMM!!!!

Lucky bastards, ho ho.

Hats off to you for another fab meal, and to Uncle Francis for starting you off on your HTE journey.

Lotta said...

Hi Sarah! I've been very busy lately and haven't had time to read your blog but today I read all your posts from the end of last month or so. It was great and I'm already looking forward to your next post. :)

Niki said...

I've just discovered that gorgonzola marsala dip and I'm seriously addicted to it. I've started using that cheap wedge of foil-wrapped cheese you get in the supermarket, cos the marsala softens it perfectly. I add walnuts to the whole thing too, and I have to stop myself eating it by the spoon.
Love the look of the choucroute - I've never had it, but I LOVE Germanic food, so I'd love to.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the tip about rinsing the caggabe.