My first Choucroute experience
One of the many things that the French are famous for is eating and drinking late into the night. At 10:30 pm after a full day of sightseeing, picture taking, shopping and visiting with family, our cousin and his wife decided to whip out some gourmet take-out for dinner. The thing was, they had fed us so much cheese and doused us with so much wine that I was really ready to crawl into bed. But they were so surprised that we were tired. Apparently, it’s customary in French culture to host dinner parties where eating doesn’t start till 10 pm. Our cousin still had a line-up of home videos and pictures to show us, and of course, more bottles of wine to be opened.
I’ve always thought sauerkraut originated from Germany but it’s actually also very popular in France. They call it choucroute and it’s served with a humongous pile of meat: bacon, sausages and roasted potatoes. Yes, with less than two hours till midnight, our cousin’s wife whips out a gigantic platter of meat with an equally large container of sauerkraut and announced that dinner was served. How could we refuse?
Our cousin opened a bottle of Alsace Grand Cru Riesling to be served with dinner. The light, fruity notes went wonderfully with the sour cabbage and potatoes. I was actually thanking my lucky stars that he was serving white wine, if he had even brought out a Gamay, I honestly think my head would’ve hit the dinner table in instant slumber.
The dish, choucroute hails from the same region as the Riesling we drank: Alsace, that skinny strip of land in France right before the German border. French chefs all over the country began adopting the choucroute dish in the 17th century.
Normally, I am not a fan of sauerkraut but the sharp, tangy flavours were such a contrast to the salty meats in the dish, I couldn’t resist. The texture was a little bit different from North American sauerkraut, it was more moist, the cabbage was sliced thinner but seemed to absorb more liquid. The flavours were strong, prickling my tongue with little hits of sour notes as I sipped the fruity Riesling in between bites.
The meat was very salty, especially since we were drinking such a sweet wine. My favourite was obviously the bacon, I finished eating two very big and thick slices of it before I knew it. And to think, I had started this meal without even being hungry.
There were two types of sausages, one sliced that was tender and also salty with some smokiness in flavour. The longer, linked sausages were a little bit chewier in texture. Surprisingly, the flavour was rather mild in comparison to the other meats.
The most mild item on the plate were the roast potatoes. Soft and tender but also fairly neutral in flavour. This might have been because at that point, my taste buds were maxed out by cheese, wine and cured meats to absorb any further flavour. Nonetheless, choucroute has made my list of one of the best things I ate in Europe.