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Choucroute Garni
(Sauerkraut Casserole with Pork, Sausage and Potatoes)

Serves 6 to 8

There are many versions of Choucroute Garni, a dish that originated in Germany but was adopted in France and bears a French name. What all recipes have in common are sauerkraut, a variety of fresh and smoked pork, usually potatoes, and the cooking method. Some of the casseroles are baked at much lower temperatures and for a longer period of time than others. This is my version, but I would not hesitate to substitute other meats, so use what you like. The recipe is very easy, but takes time to prepare and bake, so save it for a day when you have time. However, since it is also very good reheated, it can be prepared up to three days ahead and refrigerated until needed.

Ingredients

Heat a large skillet or sauté pan over high heat. Add the olive oil and swirl. Season the pork ribs with salt and pepper. Add to the hot pan and cook until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan. Reduce heat to medium-high. Add the bacon and onions. Sauté until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté another minute. Add the juniper berries, bay leaf, thyme and optional caraway seed. Pour in just enough of the chicken broth to deglaze the pan. Remove from the heat; add the sauerkraut and pepper. Stir until well combined.

Preheat oven to 350° F. Place one-half of the sauerkraut mixture into a large, deep casserole or Dutch oven. Top with the potatoes. Arrange the meats all around including any juices from the browned pork. Top that with the remaining sauerkraut. Pour in the remaining chicken broth, wine and just enough water to come to the top. Cover tightly with foil. Bake for 2-1/2 to 3 hours, or until meats are done and potatoes are tender. Remove meats and potatoes and place on separate serving dishes. Serve with good rye or pumpernickel bread.