Choucroute (sauerkraut) is a traditional alsacian/german way of conserving cabbage. It is traditionally served with pork belly, sausages and charcuterie.
Over the last 20 or 30 years, a new trend has emerged to replace the meat with seafood.
More recently, I had the chance to taste or make various implementations of this "choucroute de la mer" - literally "seafood sauerkraut".
And as people do "vertical tastings" of the same wine from different vintages, I propose we go on a "horizontal tasting" of these various avatars of one of my favourites dishes.
So, to go from the most amateurish to the most professional, I will start with my own implementation:
Sauerkraut (from a tin) - try Andre Laurent if you can find it.
Note: the photo above comes from their website
White fish, like turbot or snapper
Mussels, Scallops and Prawns
see photo underneath and recipe here - keeping it simple!
The second recipe comes from a restaurant in the island of Noirmoutier, where my sister took me, and where we used to go when we were kids (the island, not the restaurant...). I will have to find out their name later...
Again, choucroute, mash, mussels, white fish and small scallops (called petoncles) with a nice creamy sauce.
The presentation was certainly the messier of all, but it tasted very nice - although you can't beat the taste, freshness and crunchiness of Australian prawns...
Last but not least, Maitre Karl had his own choucroute de la mer last Friday. I usually have lunch there on a Friday, and I had my camera handy, so all was going to be all right.
It started even better with Karl pouring me a glass of German Pinot Gris, not what I would have chosen myself, but I know I can trust Karl and so I went along and was rewarded with a very good drop, certainly not as sweet as one would expect and a great match with the choucroute.
And again the sauerkraut and the mash were topped with a very nicely cooked piece of salmon, and surrounded with beautiful scallops and prawns. A light creamy sauce keeps everything moist and interesting!
None of these recipes contained a combination of fresh fish AND smoked fish, which might be a mistake, as a piece of haddock gives some flavour reminiscent of the smoked meats used in the traditional choucroute.
When I was visiting my parents and my sister a couple of weeks ago on the west coast of France (Les Sables d'Olonne), I had access to the best and freshest seafood available.
To give you an example, at the local fish market, you could choose between "catch of the night" and "catch of the morning"!
And both actually sell - go figure the French! I would only buy the freshest, but maybe the "catch of the night" tastes different...I didn't investigate, I must say.
In the village, there is a very nice "caviste" called CASTEL with all sort of good wines, and they have recently open a "delicatessen" and bookshop in an adjacent street.
I found a little treasure of a book there: Les meilleures recettes de SAINT-JACQUES by Jean-Pierre Crouzil, a pretty famous seafood chef in Brittany at L'Ecrin in Plancoet, where you can find the best scallops.
Back home, I chose to cook one unusual recipe:
Tatin de saint-jacques a la rhubarbe: click here for the recipe and here for the wine we drank with it...not your middle of the road combination...
And to discover more about that part of the west coast of France, I have opened a new page: Vendee
Dad passed away last Thursday, two weeks short of his 89th birthday.
I had a chance to say my goodbyes a couple of weeks before, as I was visiting for what I knew would be the last time.
He had a good and interesting life and has been a very good role model for me.
In particular, his motto was: "il n'est pas necessaire d'esperer pour entreprendre, ni de reussir pour perseverer" - a saying by Guillaume d"Orange, which can be losely translated as "It is not necessary to be hopeful in order to try, nor to be successful in order to persevere" - This has been a great help for me throughout my life.
He was not a big talker, but he kept his sense of humor up until the end, as well as his insatiable appetite for knowledge - he read the National Geographic in English and kept a diary up until very recently.
He has open many doors for me, including my love of photography, music and travel and has taught me work ethics and professionalism.
He always cared for others before himself providing his family with long term stability and love.
Interestingly, we had become closer since we moved to Australia, and he was very keen to follow our Australian "experiment". Sadly, he never had a chance to visit a country that he would have fallen in love for...
Rest in Peace, my darling and loving father.
Maitre Karl, my favourite bistro in Sydney, not least because it sits across the road from where I worked, has just been awarded the 2010 Metropolitan European Restaurant of the Year by the Restaurant & Catering Association.
To celebrate, a good colleague and myself had lunch there today for Melbourne Cup, enjoying a glass a bubbly and chocolate on the house, as well as my favourite dish: Choucroute de la Mer, and MR had the pork knuckle, another signature dish of Maitre Karl!
BTW, I am planning a vertical review of "Choucroute de la Mer" later on, so stay tuned...
The place was packed, and Karl had a very big smile on his face: Well done, mate and keep up the good work!
Spring is in the air and the Sydney Food Festival is on again.
We had more than 600 events around Sydney, including a talk at the Opera House by Number One Chef in the World: the new Danish Prince of Food: Rene Redzepi from Noma in Copenhagen. (As you know, Australia already have a Danish Princess...)
I have been away for most of the month (more on that later...) and only managed to go the the Barbecue Madness at the Pyrmont Grocers Market:
The idea is simple, although very hard on the Chefs involved, 10 Chefs cook from 10 local ingredients for 10 people - and start over every half hour - repeat six times from 9.00am to 11.30am!
Although each Chef cooks only one dish, you can appreciate the pressure to do it six times over and keep it consistent using only a barbie as a cooker!
My favourite seafood Chef was there: Stephen Hodges from FishFace preparing Mussels Marinieres.
I was given full access to take photos for your enjoyment: sorry we cannot record smells yet, as they were everywhere and fabulous...
To find out what else you and I missed out, check : www.cravesydneyfoodfestival.com.au
If you have stories from other events I missed out on, then I would like to hear from you: Give me a short story via our contact page and I will get in touch with you.
I will post the five best stories here. Hope to hear from you soon!
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.
A link here for our non-metric readers: