Sauerkraut Soup

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Rich with butter, cream, bacon & white wine, this soup makes the sow’s ear of sauerkraut into a silk purse. Iron Chef Edward Lee created it for his Louisville, KY, restaurant 610 Magnolia, putting to use the sauerkraut his German in-laws make each year from cabbage they grow themselves. Here’s a Q&A we did with Edward about the Korean-German pickled cabbage connection, and, his special soup.

LRF: You’ve told me that through your Korean heritage you grew up eating a lot of pickled and fermented veggies. How well does German sauerkraut compare?

Lee: Koreans are all about fermented and pickled vegetables so for me, sauerkraut is just German kim chi. The pickling methods are very similar, except that Koreans use spices, salted shrimp and ginger. Both Korean and German pickled cabbages are still made in garages and backyards of traditional families all around the world. My in-laws, for example, make their sauerkraut in their garage using an old family recipe that has been with them for generations. They shave the cabbage with a large, wooden mandoline into simple, ceramic crocks where it’s fermented with salt.

LRF: How did you first learn that your in-laws were making sauerkraut?

Lee: Harold and Virlee are from Germany, but now reside in Ferdinand, Indiana. Every year, my wife Dianne would go home to visit her parents and come back with mason jars full of sauerkraut. She’d put them in the pantry and usually, forgot about them. One day, I opened her pantry and found about a dozen jars of sauerkraut! I opened one and it was the best tasting sauerkraut I’d ever had–far better than the sauerkraut I remember getting from hot dog carts when I was growing up in Brooklyn. It’s funny–I can taste herbs and juniper and a hint of clove in my in-law’s sauerkraut. But when I asked what spices they used, they just looked at me and said, “just cabbage and salt.” That really blew me away!

LRF: When did you first come up with the idea of making sauerkraut into a soup?

Lee: I hate to waste things, and wanted to come up with something that would use all of the sauerkraut we’d stockpiled, but also wanted to ensure it remained in the spotlight. The idea of an elegant, creamy decadent soup with a pickled finish to it sounded perfect. It’s been a hit at the restaurant ever since.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Chile Oil Ingredients

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp pink peppercorns

Sauerkraut Soup Ingredients

  • 10 oz good-quality German sauerkraut, homemade or store-bought
  • 2 Tbsp good quality butter (Organic Valley Pasture butter, salted, or cultured, is a great choice)
  • 3 slices (3 oz) bacon
  • 1 cup chopped white onion
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 4 tsp sour cream
  • 3 Tbsp cold butter
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
  • baby arugula for garnish (1 to 2 cups)

Instructions

  1. Prepare chile oil: Heat olive oil until warm. Add paprika, chili flakes and peppercorns. Turn off heat. Let steep for 1 hour and strain through a coffee filter into a jar. Set aside. (Note: Oil will keep in the fridge for months.)
  2. Remove sauerkraut from jar. Lightly rinse and squeeze out the water before weighing out 10 oz. Set aside.
  3. Heat 2 Tbsp butter in a large soup pot and add bacon and white onion. Cook until the fat has rendered out of the bacon–about 5 minutes.
  4. Add sauerkraut and white wine. Cook until the wine has cooked off. Add chicken stock and heavy cream. Lower the heat and simmer soup for about 20 minutes.
  5. Turn off the heat. Add mustard, sour cream and cold butter. Puree in small batches in a blender (or with an immersion blender) until you have a velvety, creamy soup. Finish with salt and pepper to taste. Keep soup warm until ready to serve.
  6. Ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle a few drops of chile oil onto the surface of each bowl of soup. Garnish with a few leaves of arugula.

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