Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Pork & Sauerkraut - Polish Style

As the weather turns colder, our taste buds turn to comfort food, dishes that are satisfying and stick to your ribs.  We often take turns in the kitchen but when I’m the designated chef, simple and easy is the way to go.  I’m not looking for a long list of ingredients and prep time should be no longer than a 30-minute news broadcast.  Are you with me? 

So we often turn to pork.  Have you seen those TV commercials that declared pork as “the other white meat”  It’s true because pork production has improved a lot and we no longer have to cook it to “flavor-death” for safety’s sake.  If I’m grilling chops over a direct flame, a little bit of light pink in the middle is my goal.

We love pork because it is so versatile and hard to screw up – so long as you don’t dry it out.  And I’m a huge fan of stewed sauerkraut, as in our iconic Hunter’s Stew recipe (Polish Classic Recipes, Page 49).  It has a natural tang which pairs beautifully with almost any meat, and it just sings when you add layers of additional flavorings such as mushrooms, tomato or apple.  Whether sweet or savory, sauerkraut is one of my favorite foods.

So yesterday I brought home a couple of bone-in loin chops (tip: bone-in has more flavor) about one inch thick and a small, one-pound bag of sauerkraut.

As soon as I got home, I grabbed a handful of dried forest mushrooms (bought in bulk on Amazon) from our stash in the pantry, and put them in a big mug of hot water (12 ounces) to soak.  Don’t throw away the mushroom water – it has great flavor.   After the mushrooms softened, I rough-chopped them.

Next, I put a tablespoon of oil into a deep skillet, browned the chops, set them aside, and lightly sautéed a small chopped onion - making sure the heat didn’t get too high to burn the brown pork bits in the bottom of the pan;

With a hard spatula I scraped and loosened the pork bits leaving them IN the pan for flavoring. Then I rinsed the sauerkraut three times to help dilute some of the harsh tang.  

The sauerkraut and mushrooms went back in the pan with some additional flavoring.  For a sweeter style you could add half a tart apple which has been cut into wedges.  Personally, I prefer a more savory taste and added a bay leaf and one teaspoon of caraway seeds.

Next went in some salt and pepper, stirred lightly to blend all the flavorings. Then the chops went back in the skillet, kind of pushed down into the sauerkraut;

Finally, the reserved mushroom water was poured over the top, covered the skillet tightly with a lid, and cooked on a very low simmer for an hour or so;  
Once or twice I checked the skillet to make sure the liquid hadn’t evaporated.  The easy test for doneness is to stick a fork in the chop -- after an hour the pork should be almost falling off the bone and the fork should twist easily.

Mashed potatoes are a favorite with this dish, but any green vegetable is healthier.  In Poland they’d be serving this with shots of ice-cold vodka, but a glass of hearty red wine is just great.
I spent less than six bucks on the pork and sauerkraut, less than 20 minutes prepping, and the two of us got a big meal out of it.  It was full of big bold flavors, the pork was moist, and the whole dish was healthy, so that goes down as a big win.  Polish Pork and Sauerkraut – yum!   Smacznego!