Chicken with Sauerkraut Toursi (Κοτόπουλο με Τουρσί)
Adapted from Evanthia Valassiades’ recipe in A Festival of Recipes: A Collection of Recipes from the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Dayton, Ohio, 2001
For a rich and hearty winter meal, sweetened sauerkraut and flavorful chicken, served with Cinnamon-Scented Rice Pilaf, is an exotic, and uniquely compelling, flavor combination. Sugar renders the sauerkraut sweet and sour. I modified the original recipe by significantly reducing the sugar (from 1 cup to 1/4 cup), and by adding onion and thyme to round out the flavors. I once made this dish using only olive oil and it tasted fine, but it tastes better when the onions and sauerkraut are cooked in butter. Evanthia roasts the chicken whole, which makes a more attractive holiday presentation. By cutting the chicken up, as I’ve done here, its flavors infuse and richen the sauerkraut. The dish can easily be made ahead; its flavor improves over time.
1 quart sauerkraut (2 pounds), preferably from the market’s refrigerator section
3 1/2 – 4 pound chicken cut into pieces, or 8 – 10 chicken thighs
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup butter, plus 2 Tbsp. for baking sauerkraut
3 cups thinly sliced onions
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp. dried thyme, crushed
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups chicken stock
3 bay leaves
Drain sauerkraut into strainer and rinse it very well. Leave sauerkraut in strainer to drain while you cook chicken.
Wash chicken pieces and dry them well. Season pieces on both sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Heat olive oil in large pot until it’s very hot, but not smoking (if oil is very hot, chicken skin is less likely to stick to pan). Place chicken in pan, skin side down, and cook until it’s well browned, about five minutes. Turn pieces over and brown other side. Brown chicken in two frying pans or in two batches – don’t try to crowd all chicken into pan at one time or chicken will steam, rather than brown. Place browned chicken on paper towels to drain.
Melt butter in pan large enough to hold onions and sauerkraut. Cook onions in butter, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, until they soften and begin to turn golden. Add thyme and rinsed sauerkraut, and sauté until sauerkraut begins to caramelize. Add sugar and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Stir in browned chicken, stock, and bay leaves. Place in buttered baking dish, dot with 2 Tbsp. butter, and bake uncovered for 45 minutes.
Serve with Cinnamon-Scented Rice Pilaf.