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Sausage and Sauerkraut Stew with Duck Fat Dumplings

[Photograph: Max Falkowitz]

Juniper plays best with gamey meats, but game can be hard to come by. If you don't hunt (or have a friend who does), your options are limited. Ducks, however, are far more widely available and are sweet, rich, and just gamey enough. I like adding duck stock to stews to give them a more exotic edge, and I don't limit myself to Scandinavian fare.

Sausage and sauerkraut with paprika and sour cream is the stuff of dreams for me. I don't think comfort food gets any better. The other day I was thinking about sausage (as I'm wont to do), specifically dry-aged sausages. The drying process slightly ferments them, giving them a tangy bite that I felt would pair perfectly with the newly rendered duck stock in my refrigerator (a crude but delicious brew of one carcass simmered for seven hours with four halved onions). Sauerkraut brings out the tang of the sausage, and juniper compliments the stew's ducky notes. I decided to top it with some simple drop dumplings, which are at their savory best when made with animal fat (preferably duck), to round out the meal and amp up the gaminess.

A note on sausage: I have a personal preference for sujuk, a dry-ish Turkish beef sausage heavily spiced cumin and coriander, with just a hint of funk. If you can't find them or like another spicy sausage, go for the latter. I provide some alternative suggestions in the recipe.

This stew tastes better the next day: The juniper's sweetness really shines through. Its delicacy takes the back seat to the more assertive paprika, but the stew is greatly improved by its addition. The dumplings, however, don't keep well; cook them just before serving.

Dumpling recipe adapted from Real Stew by Clifford Wright.

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