frank and i have lots in common – a pair of leos who love classic cars – but one of the coolest commonalities is our love of german (and austrian) food. it’s in our genes somewhere – most obviously in his scottish/german ancestry, less so in my my west indian, new york, scottish, irish, african-ness. schnitzel sluts r us.
my mother used to make us pork chops and sauerkraut with apple sauce when i was a kid. it was yummy – particularly the potatoes and sauerkraut part – but the pork chops were generally unyieldingly dry (sorry ma.) i have no idea what she did to them but baking in an electric oven on high for an hour will undo the effects any amount of white wine and sauerkraut juice i reckon.
this fall i will start a new batch of sauerkraut in my beloved gartopf but it’s getting warm in la so i’ll doctor up some boar’s head and be done because it is really all about the pork. the chops should be boneless center cut, really thick and they absolutely must be brined.
brining is a key meat move in any cook’s technique arsenal. it’s a chemistry trick involving osmosis. the water, salt and aromatics in your brine carry into the meat cells and make them virtually impervious to drying out. harold mcgee has lots to say about this in his various books. read them.
schweinekoteletts mit sauerkraut
1 or 2 center cut boneless pork chops – at least 2 inches thick – per person
i have to admit i’m a little lazy with my brines. there is all sorts of precision to be had, eggs to be floated, etc. i choose a vessel of an appropriate size for the meat in question and go to town: bay leaf, habaneros or other hot pepper, white peppercorns, black peppercorns, juniper berries, a clove of garlic, a bit of star anise and then salt and sugar in a 1:2 ratio and fill the vessel (usually a ziplock bag) with cold water. if i am doing a big cut – like a brisket – i will boil it all together and add ice and let it cool and be more precise with the measurements, especially with the addition of the nitrite in the case of cured meat like corned beef. but for a couple of pork chops – some salt, some sugar – taste it – if it’s too strong add more water. throw it in the fridge for a few hours to a day or two. the chops in question today have been in a weak-ish (but spicy) brine for a week. i know. i’ve been busy trying to get a movie going.
sauerkraut (fresh is fine, homemade is best)
potatoes – parboiled
onions, garlic etc.
spices – juniper, caraway seeds, black pepper
white wine (a troken riesling if you want to be authentic)
preheat oven to 300. sauté the onions, garlic, kraut and spices in butter or goose fat. deglaze with white wine, and set aside. brown the chops (rinse off any clingy bits of spice and dry them first) in goose fat or butter. set them into a baking pan (i usually brown them right in my le creuset rectangular pan), position the potatoes around them and cover with the sauerkraut – making sure the meat is totally obscured. cover with foil and seal tightly. bake the whole scenario in the oven for fifteen minutes – then temperature test the pork. pork does not have to be cooked to 190. it will probably not even kill you at 140. presumably, since we don’t have swine running the streets and eating garbage and small rodents anymore, trichinosis is not as much an issue these days. cooking pork to medium rare (about 145) is fine and even at 165 the brine does its osmotic magic so they should be custard-like, barely pink and really really juicy.
frank likes his sauerkraut sort of browned and crispy – we were at diener in berlin in february (for the berlinale) and they left our wurst plate under the salamander too long and the sauerkraut crisped up – it was nice. so now i do that – just run it under the broiler for a few minutes. good german mustard and apple sauce or sautéed apples are yummy with too.