HARICOTS SEC GARNIS A L’ALSACIENNE (Alsatian black bean stew with braised pork and sauerkraut, for four)
Julia doubts that this recipe, featuring black beans, is truly Alsatian, but she assures readers that if they had access to black beans, this is how Alsatians might prepare them. She recommends the stew be accompanied by an Alsatian Riesling or a big pitcher of beer.
For the sauerkraut:
2 pounds fresh sauerkraut
2 ounces salt pork
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
1-1/2 cups chicken stock
¾ cup dry white French vermouth
1 cup, more or less, water
1 imported bay leaf
6 juniper berries
1-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch or potato starch
For the pork:
Either 4 to 6 pork chops, browned on each side, or 2 to 3 pounds, more or less, pork shoulder, butt, country spareribs or homemade, Italian or Polish sausage, cut into 2 inch chunks and browned in a frying pan.
3 cups cooked black beans and their cooking liquid.
1. Braising the sauerkraut: Drain and rinse the sauerkraut, and soak it in several changes of cold water for 20 minutes. Drain, squeeze dry by handfuls, then fluff up in a colander. Meanwhile, slice the salt pork ¼ inch and blanch them (drop them into a quart of cold water, bring to a simmer, and simmer 10 minutes, rinse in cod water, drain and dry on paper towels). Choose a heavy, flameproof casserole, 2-1/2 to 3 quart size, and in it brown the salt pork lightly with the olive oil. Then stir in the sliced onion and carrot, cover and cook slowly 5 minutes, until almost tender. Stir in the sauerkraut, mixing thoroughly with the salt pork and vegetables, cover and cook slowly, stirring up once, for 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock, wine and enough water to almost cover the sauerkraut. Add the bay leaf, peppercorns and juniper berries and bring to the simmer on top of the stove. Lay a piece of wax paper over the sauerkraut and set the cover on the casserole. Either bake slowly in a 325* oven, or simmer slowly on top of the stove.
2. Adding the pork: After the sauerkraut has cooked about 1-1/4 hours, salt lightly and bury the browned pork or sausages in it. Bring again to the simmer and continue cooking another 45 minutes, or until just tender but still slightly crunchy with you chew it.
3. Finishing the casserole: Drain all the liquid out of the sauerkraut into a 4 cup measure. Add enough bean cooking juices to the measure to make 2 cups of liquid. Place the starch into a small saucepan, beat in the combined juices and simmer 3 to 4 minutes to thicken the liquid into a sauce as well as cook the starch. Carefully correct the seasoning. Fold the cooked beans and the sauce into the casserole with the sauerkraut and pork. (May be completed a day in advance of serving; when cool, cover and refrigerate.)
4. Simmer slowly, basting contents with the sauce, for 5 or 10 minutes before serving and either bring the casserole to the table or transfer to a hot platter and decorate with parsley.