Did I make it in time for the Super Bowl this weekend?! This may not be your typical Super Bowl fare, but I think that it meets the requirements. It’s a one-pot meal and it goes well with beer. What more could you ask for? Oh, bacon you say?… Don’t worry, that’s included too!
One of our favorite neighborhood restaurants in the city is Café D’Alsace. Dishes like charcroute garnie, duck sausage with sauerkraut, and tarte flambee are mainstays on the menu. It must be cold in Alsace, because the food here is hearty, rich, and meat-heavy. With temperatures barely reaching 20 degrees in New York last week, it’s exactly the sort of food that I was craving. However, bitterly cold temperatures also make me want to hibernate, so I decided to satisfy both my desire to stay out of the cold with my yearning for sauerkraut.
Enter chicken braised in sauerkraut! I was so excited to make this recipe, especially after I found large hunks of meaty bacon and sauerkraut at my local German grocer (Schaller & Weber for those of you who live in New York City). I started by slowly sautéing the bacon in a pan, allowing the fat to render out and the bacon to become slightly crispy. I debated pouring some of the fat out of the pan, but there wasn’t too much, and I figured that we could use a little bit of extra blubber to fend off the cold this winter. To the bacon, I added thin slices of sweet onion and a Granny Smith apple, which I slowly caramelized in the pan. After pouring in a hearty amount of Riesling wine, a can of drained mild sauerkraut, shredded fresh red cabbage, juniper berries, thyme, pearl onions and chicken broth, my kitchen smelled like a German beerhouse. As the cabbage braised, I browned boneless chicken thighs, added them to the cabbage, and also baked cookies. That is not a typo, I had made cookie batter the night before and after a proper rest in the refrigerator, (I have heard that is the key to great cookies) I figured why not wait, I had time while my cabbage braised. Let me just note that my small apartment kitchen now smelled like a cross between an Auntie Anne’s cookie shop and a Bratwurst stand. Weird, sort of like when I stumbled across a café in the West Village a few years ago called New York Hot Dogs & Coffee. Now, dogs and ketchup, dogs and pop, dogs and shakes—those all make sense to me. Dogs and coffee??? Needless to say, when I passed by the same location this summer, New York Dogs & Coffee had sadly closed. I guess even New Yorkers aren’t that adventurous when it comes to combo meals. Now, back to that chicken recipe…
I had to wait for my husband to get home from a cross-country trip to L.A., so my cabbage and chicken braised longer than I had originally intended. And herein lies the benefit of using chicken thighs. Unlike chicken breasts, they don’t easily become dry and overcooked, which is why I recommend using them when you are braising. Even though I cooked my chicken thighs at least 10 minutes longer than necessary, they remained tender and juicy. We ate our chicken and cabbage with homemade crusty bread and a salad dressed in simple vinaigrette, but you could also serve it with mashed potatoes or egg noodles (spaetzle would be great too). I should also note that this recipe is not comfort food in the sense of “I cannot move and must lie on my sofa for the next few hours while I digest”. It is bright and lively thanks to the sauerkraut and wine, and it will definitely warm you up on a cold night. It’s also perfect for a crowd (Super Bowl party anyone?).
Braised Chicken Thighs with Sauerkraut, Riesling, Apple and Bacon
Time: 1 ¼ – 1 ½ hours, including prep time
- 6 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 medium-sized sweet onion, thinly sliced
- ½ head of a medium-sized red cabbage, core removed and thinly sliced
- 1, 14-ounce can of mild sauerkraut (I used Hengstenberg Mildessa mild sauerkraut, made with wine), drained and rinsed
- 1 medium granny smith apple, chopped into small ½ inch cubes
- 2/3 cup of dry Riesling wine (you can substitute the Riesling for any dry white wine if necessary)
- 10 ounces pearl onions, peeled (I found fresh, peeled pearl onions in the produce department at my grocery store, but you can omit these if you can’t find them or don’t have time to peel the onions)
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 12 juniper berries
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- Freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1.75 pounds boneless chicken thigh (with skin or without is fine here)
- Heat a large, straight-sided sauté pan with a lid (or a braising pot) over medium heat. Add the olive oil and the bacon, and cook until almost all of the fat has rendered out and the bacon is slightly crispy.
- Add the onion slices and cook for 5-7 minutes or until the onion is soft and caramelized.
- Add the apple pieces, and cook for an additional 3 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
- Add the fresh red cabbage and cook for 5 minutes, or until the cabbage is beginning to wilt.
- Add the sauerkraut, pearl onions, wine, broth, juniper berries, fresh thyme, and a few turns of freshly ground black pepper.
- Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
- While the cabbage is simmering, heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add a tablespoon of canola oil.
- Season the chicken thighs well with salt and pepper and place them in the hot pan, being careful not to over-crowd the chicken (I browned my chicken in 2 batches). Brown the chicken thighs on both sides, about 8 minutes per side, or until golden brown.
- Transfer the chicken to a platter or plate until ready to use.
- Remove the cover from the pot with the cabbage, add the chicken thighs and nestle them into the cabbage mixture so that they are covered with cabbage.
- Cover the pot again and simmer for an additional 15 minutes.
- Uncover, remove the pot from the heat and serve.