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.

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!