Sauerblog

OK, this was totally unexpected.

As part of the prep work for Tuesday’s status update, I was looking over various site statistics, including the list of top posts*. I ignore the stats for the home page, since that gets hit almost every time someone comes to visit. I also ignore the stats for the “About” page and the F.A.Q., since they’re not really blog posts. With those caveats, the most popular post, by an overwhelming margin, is Using Up the Leftovers: Sauerkraut. “Overwhelming”? Yeah, more than twice as many views as the next most popular**.

* For the record, “Top posts” is strictly a measure of views. As far as I can tell, it has nothing to do with the actual quality of the writing.

** Moo! Since that post was about using up the less-popular parts of the cow, I thought I was onto a pattern. But the next three were my musings on Dropcam, the mandatory emergency alerts built into cell phones, and Kokoro’s Story. I suppose one could make a case for the first two being part of the pattern, but Ms K-poof is not a leftover.

Interestingly, that post went up at the end of July. It got a view every couple of days through August and September, then went totally dead, without a single hit until December 30. Three total views in December, 15 in January, 20 in February, and 44 in March. Clearly, sauerkraut disposal is a big issue in winter. Does everyone suddenly spot the jar that hasn’t been touched since the last cookout of summer and say “Well, it doesn’t really go bad, but I’m tired of looking at it, so I might as well use it up?” Or maybe it’s just that everyone on the East Coast is snowed in and trying to figure out what to do with the last thing in the fridge?

It does tempt me to make this blog “all sauerkraut, all the time”… OK, not really, though I did consider it for about 15 seconds. What I did decide to do, though, was give a partial update to that post.

One of the recipes I linked in the original post was for “Lemon Chicken Baked on a Bed of Sauerkraut“, attributed to “tiffany”. We tried it out and were mildly pleased, but found it somewhat underspiced. We’ve experimented with it a couple of times since, and think we’ve come up with something pretty tasty. Without further ado, here’s our version.

Lemon/Sauerkraut Crockpot Chicken

Ingredients

  • 32 oz jar sauerkraut. If you’re using up leftover sauerkraut, it’s fine to cheat on the quantity here. If you’re buying sauerkraut specifically to make this dish, be experimental: try a flavored variety (I highly recommend Farmhouse Culture’s Smoked Jalapeno.) If you’re making your own sauerkraut, my hat’s off to you.
  • 1 teaspoon ground red pepper. Or local equivalent: we’ve had good results using up leftover crushed red pepper from the local pizza delivery outfit.
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary. Because every chicken recipe uses rosemary. I think it’s international law. Part of the Geneva Convention, maybe.
  • 6 chicken thighs (about 2 1/2 pounds). If you’re using boneless/skinless thighs to cut down on fat, reduce the quantity to 1 3/4 to 2 pounds. Turkey thighs work well too, but you’re not going to get lovely, crunchy turkey skin.
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice. Maybe a little more. It is lemon chicken, after all.
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil. Sorry, I can’t think of any olive oil jokes right now.
  • salt and black pepper to taste. Use less salt than you think it needs. It really doesn’t add much to the flavor, and there’s probably too much sodium in your diet anyway. Use more pepper than you think it needs. You want the dish to have a bit of a kick.

Construction

  1. Rinse the sauerkraut and drain. Don’t squeeze it: you want to remove some, but not all, of the moisture.
  2. Spray your crockpot with cooking spray and toss in half of the kraut. Add half of the red pepper and rosemary, then give it a stir.
  3. Spread the chicken in a single layer on top of the kraut. Optional, but recommended: let your inner serial killer loose on the chicken: take a sharp knife and stab the heck out of the bird before you put it in the crockpot.
  4. Mix the lemon juice and olive oil, then brush it on the chicken. Hit both sides, and use all of the mixture.
  5. Sprinkle the salt and pepper on the chicken.
  6. Layer the remaining kraut on top of the chicken, then top with the remaining red pepper and rosemary.
  7. Cook on low 7-8 hours. If you’ve got a long commute, put everything together the night before, store it in the fridge, and start it cooking before you leave. If it winds up cooking for a couple of extra hours, it won’t be hurt a bit.
  8. Serve in bowls over rice. Far too many chicken dishes are too wimpy to stand up to brown rice. This is not one of them.

Bits and Pieces

I’m going to continue Friday’s “short notes” theme with some updates on continuing issues.

Leading off: BART workers are not on strike. No, there isn’t a settlement. Management’s lead negotiator left the table about 8:15 Sunday night, and everyone else knocked off about 15 minutes later. Management asked Governor Brown to impose a 60 day “cooling off period” to block a strike. Instead, he blocked a strike for a week and appointed a three-person panel to “investigate” the talks. During the week-long investigation, both sides will have to present their offers and reasons for supporting or opposing the cooling off period to the board. More details in a story at SFGate. So I was right that there would not be a deal by today, but wrong that there would actually be a strike. I also predicted that a deal would be reached late Wednesday with service resuming on Friday. The governor has charged negotiators to continue meeting while the board investigation continues, so it’s still possible that a settlement could be reached Wednesday. Stay tuned.

Regardless of one’s feelings about labor actions, government intervention, and who’s in the right in this case, it was clearly a good thing the governor stepped in: a truck fire on the freeway Monday morning closed two lanes for hours. Traffic backed up across the bridge and for miles up the freeway. If there had been a BART strike, and all those additional drivers were on the road, the traffic jam probably wouldn’t have cleared up until Labor Day.

Batting second: I was a bit off the mark in my prediction that we would start seeing third-party apps supporting Chromecast last week. A quick check of Google Play shows exactly one app touting Chromecast support. That’s “RemoteCast and it’s in beta. As best I can tell, it’s also not an actual media player, it’s a remote control for whatever content you’re already streaming to your Chromecast. So technically I was right, but from a practical standpoint I was a bit optimistic.

Why was I wrong? The interest is definitely there: I’ve seen several apps listing Chromecast support as “coming soon” and several others whose developers are promising support if they can get their hands on a device. However, Google is deliberately slowing things down. They’re describing the current SDK as a “preview”; apps built with it will, they say, only work with Chromecast devices that have been registered with Google for development and testing. Until they release the final SDK, don’t expect a whole lot of apps available for download.

In the third spot: The leftover sauerkraut has been used up. The “Lemon Chicken Baked on a Bed of Sauerkraut” recipe actually called for the entire remainder of our bottle. It turned out reasonably well, but needs some tinkering. The sauerkraut didn’t add much flavor to the chicken, though the chicken added a fair amount to the sauerkraut. That could probably be fixed by layering the chicken between two layers of ‘kraut instead of setting it on top of a single layer. More spice is a must. If we try it again, we’ll probably up the lemon juice a bit, definitely use more rosemary, and crank up the pepper significantly. Probably worth adding some thyme as well. Still, we enjoyed it enough that we would consider trying it again.

We usually use leftover cooking liquid as the basis for soups and stews, but decided against it this time, largely because it seemed like most of its flavor was coming from the dissolved chicken fat. So we put it out for the four-legged neighbors, who apparently enjoyed it immensely, as the bowl was darn near polished. We suspect it went mostly to the raccoons, which is fine: that means more of the cat food went to the cats.

Batting cleanup: It’s been very quiet on the Bay Bridge front lately. The only information I’ve seen is a note from Matier and Ross about the “shim” proposal and the swiftly decreasing likelihood of the bridge opening Labor Day weekend. They point out that because Caltrans is asking both their seismic review panel and the Federal Highway Administration for their opinions of the proposal, the soonest they could get the go-ahead would be mid-August. Caltrans would then need to give a couple of weeks’ notice that the bridge would be closed for four days to switch the lanes from the old bridge to the new. That would be cutting it close. Adding to the pressure against a Labor Day weekend opening is the fact that the Metropolitan Transportation Commission–the master overseer of the bridge project–is on summer vacation until after Labor Day. So all-in-all the prospects for a quick-fix-assisted opening seem dim.

Random thought: does it seem suspicious to you all that the BART fiasco has completely driven the Bolt Botch out of the news? Granted that BART contract negotiations are always messy, but this time around it seems like both sides have gone out of their way to foul things up. Anyone think Caltrans might have been “encouraging” negotiators’ missteps to draw the public’s attention elsewhere while they try to figure out where to pin the donkey’s tail of blame? Not saying they have, but it does have a bit of a “tin foil beanie” feel about it.

Using Up the Leftovers: Sauerkraut

Normally when I do a food/recipe post, I don’t pay much attention to practicality. I think about plausibility, but I don’t really worry about numbers of ingredients or cooking times. I figure that even if I find a particular recipe impractical, you might not.

Today, though, I’m trying to solve an actual problem: There’s a big jar of sauerkraut in the fridge, and I want to use it up. We got it last time we had hot dogs for dinner (can’t have a hot dog without sauerkraut, right?). But it’s a big jar and we don’t do hot dogs very often, so it’s likely to be sitting there for a while taking up space and laughing at us. So today’s challenge is to find four* recipes that we might actually prepare that use a significant amount of sauerkraut. Given our tastes, that not only means I need to keep an eye on ingredient lists and cooking times, but I also need to avoid recipes that involve several staples of sauerkraut cuisine: sausage, pork, and veal. And yes, it also rules out Reuben sandwiches. Cooking time? Well yeah, given that I’m lazy, it seems like a good idea to rule out anything that requires a lot of steps or a long period of active involvement.

* An semi-arbitrarily-selected number. It would probably be enough to enable us to finish the jar, while not requiring us to go totally sauerkraut-wild.

1. My first reaction on seeing BBQ Sauerkraut was “How do you keep it on the grill?” Turns out it’s a casserole. The ingredient list is OK: ground beef is safe, and there are no spices that we would only use for this dish. A cup of brown sugar seems a bit much, but could certainly be adjusted in future iterations. Cooking time is fine: mix ingredients, put it in the oven, and go do something else while it cooks. It’s not a hugely inspiring dish, but it fits the basic criteria.

1.1 Somewhat similar, but a little more inspiring is Texas Goulash. Stew beef wins over ground, and the recipe actually has some spice to it. Bell pepper is a negative, but it could be omitted without harming the integrity of the dish.

1.2 Mom’s Sauerkraut & Rice is another similar idea built around ground beef. Rice should be a nice variation, and the presence of actual spices is a big plus. Simple enough to prepare, but probably best for a day that doesn’t include a commute.

2. Krauted Chicken Parmesan. Now we’re getting into recipes that require some actual cooking. The sauerkraut isn’t totally integral to the dish: the recipe looks like it would work just as well as a non-krauted chicken parmesan, but that’s beside the point for this exercise. Looks tasty, the ingredient list isn’t outrageously long, and the preparation is straight-forward.

3. A totally different approach to chicken: Lemon Chicken Baked on a Bed of Sauerkraut. Despite the name, it’s actually a crockpot recipe. The only recipe I’ve seen that calls for ground red pepper, something else we have an overly-sufficient supply of, though I suppose a half-teaspoon isn’t going to cure that problem. (Update: we’ve made this dish several times since I wrote this post. If you’re interested in the tweaks we’ve made to the recipe, see this post.)

4. I liked the sound of Pickle Soup until I saw that it involves a ham hock. No pork, remember.

4.1 All is not lost in the soup department, though. Grandma’s Ukrainian Kapusta is a very straight-forward split pea and sauerkraut soup. Definitely a “do it ahead of time” dish, and it makes significantly more than we need, but it does supposedly freeze well. Worth considering sometime down the road, but probably not quite right for using up the leftover sauerkraut.

4.2 Here’s a dedicated crock pot recipe. Well, not so much a recipe as an ingredient list. Tender Beef Roast in Crockpot. It’s simple, uses all safe ingredients that we usually have on hand or can get easily, and takes no effort at all. Too bad it looks boring. Put it on the “maybe” list.

4.3 Pesto Sauerkraut Lasagna: are you kidding me? OK, it’s vegan and gluten-free, not that I care much about either of those, but any ingredient list that includes zucchini, pumpkin seeds, and arugula isn’t going to fly around here. Next!

4.4 I’m not real big on frying, other than the occasional craving for a couple of chunks of pan-fried chicken, but Potato Cakes with a Surprise Ingredient look like they might be worth adding to repertoire.

4.5 I like stuffed cabbage, but it definitely falls into the “more work than I want to go to” category. Sauerkraut Cabbage Roll Soup might just satisfy that particular taste with a bit less effort. I like the fact that it’s designed to use brown rice instead of white. Total cooking time is starting to reach into the “only on a weekend” range, but that’s a possibility.

OK, looks like I’ve got my four dishes, along with some alternate choices. And I didn’t even need to go the dessert route:

Thanks for following along!