Sauerkraut-braised Kielbasa with Cabbage and Potatoes

the cabbage & potatoes alone wouldn't be a terrible meal, either, especially with a hunk of brown bread and butter 

My friend Voxphoto gave me some tasty homemade sauerkraut, which reminded me of the kielbasa appetizer recipe from Sarita Ciatti that we included in the wedding cookbook. The only two ingredients in the appetizer are kielbasa and sauerkraut—you slice the kielbasa thinly, fry it until it’s crisp, refrigerate it overnight, and then spread it in a pan on top of a bunch of drained, rinsed sauerkraut and bake it until the whole mess gets sweet and tender and starts caramelizing around the edges. So. Good.

before the sauerkraut softens and sweetens and the beer cooks down

But I’m not entertaining much these days. Not really cooking much either. Working 60+ hours a week will do that to you. So I decided to look for something similar that would be a little less “party” and a little more “something resembling a meal you can make a lot of on Sunday and eat all week.”

Combining elements from half a dozen other recipes, this is what I came up with—it’s basically a stovetop version of the appetizer served alongside stewed cabbage and potatoes. The kielbasa got some beer and brown sugar and the cabbage stew also has carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic, some herbs and mushroom bouillon. All of that is probably optional, but if you’re only going to cook once a week, might as well pull out the bay leaves, right?

Turned out pretty tasty, and pretty cheap, too, even if you don’t get your sauerkraut for free.

after, see all those caramelly brown sauerkraut bits?

Recipe: Sauerkraut-braised Kielbasa with Cabbage and Potatoes

  • the non-kielbasa part1-2 lbs kielbasa 
  • 1 cup sauerkraut (rinsed if you prefer to minimize the sourness)
  • 1 cup beer, wine, or cider (I used Bell’s Christmas Ale, the only sign of the holidays I don’t resent seeing before Thanksgiving)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons sugar (preferably brown)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons butter, rendered bacon fat, or neutral cooking oil
  • 4-6 cloves garlic
  • 1 large onion
  • about half a head of cabbage
  • 1/4 lb. carrots
  • 2 pounds of waxy potatoes
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried
  • a handful of fresh sage leaves or 1 tsp. rubbed
  • ~4 cups water, stock, and/or bouillon (you could also add an ounce of dried porcinis soaked in hot water and minced, along with the water)
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Slice the kielbasa thinly and fry in a single layer in a skillet until brown and crispy around the edges. (This is the first and key step in the appetizer version. The next steps: refrigerate the kielbasa overnight, rinse a 12 oz. can of sauerkraut and spread it on the bottom of a casserole dish. Put the refrigerated kielbasa on top of the sauerkraut and bake for about an hour at 350F. Unbelievably delicious, and I could eat a bowl of it like a meal so I’m not 100% sure why I thought the rest of this was necessary, but anyhow:)

2. Add enough sauerkraut to cover pan in a thin layer and about a cup of beer, wine, or cider (alcoholic or not), 2 Tablespoons of brown sugar to cut the sourness, and turn the heat down low and braise for 1-2 hours.

3. Meanwhile, heat the fat in a large pot.

4. Roughly chop the onion, shred the cabbage, mince the garlic, and peel or scrub the potatoes and cut them into 2-3” chunks.

5. Sweat the onion and garlic in the fat until the translucent and starting to color.

6. Add the cabbage, potatoes, bay leaves, thyme, sage, water or stock and bouillon if using. something about a big pot of potatoes and cabbage feels very "peasant," even though who knows if any peasants ever ate anything like it and if they did, they definitely didn't boil it with mushroom bouillon all soft, but not dissolving.

7. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer and cook until tender (about an hour).

8. Keep an eye on the kielbasa and add more liquid if necessary to prevent it from burning.

9. When the cabbage and potatoes are tender, drain (if desired, or you could leave it kind of soupy) and add the salt and pepper.

10. Mix it all together. Or serve the braised kilebasa on top of the cabbage and potatoes.