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Dishin’ on the Dish: Choucroute garnie at En Passant

Sam Engelhardt, owner and executive chef at the new Logan Square restaurant, offers his take on the classic sauerkraut dish his mother used to make.

What’s cookin’ in and around Chicago? Here’s a closer look at one of the area’s delicious dishes you don’t want to miss.

Bratwurst and sauerkraut were often on the menu at Sam Engelhardt’s house growing up. It was one of his mother’s many specialties.

Early in Engelhardt’s culinary career, which started in Florida under chef David Carrier, the then-rookie made a variation of his childhood dish, constructing bratwurst from scratch for a bar menu.

“It’s kind of exciting to just be able to see that you can make it yourself and it can be better,” Engelhardt recalled.

Engelhardt moved to Chicago about 12 years ago and has worked in various kitchens across the city. En Passant, a new restaurant in Logan Square, is the first one he can call his own.

And of course, he had to incorporate his take on the old, classic dish his mother used to make.

The choucroute garnie served at En Passant restaurant in Logan Square.
The choucroute garnie served at En Passant restaurant in Logan Square.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times

The choucroute garnie, a “very personal” menu item for Engelhardt, has been a crowd pleaser since En Passant opened in April.

Engelhardt’s version includes some ingredients and spices that shy away from the traditional choucroute garnie, including ones that he “bumped into throughout [his] life and kind of thought they could add to the dish.”

Making the bratwursts and sauerkraut in-house can be a tedious process.

Engelhardt said he invested in a meat grinder so he could grind pork shoulder to make the sausage. He adds eggs and cream, along with some seasonings, including salt, nutmeg and white pepper, before casing the sausage.

The bratwurst is poached and later put on the griddle.

Meanwhile, the sauerkraut is cooked down with bacon and white wine. Engelhardt said he also adds a sachet of spices, including caraway and juniper.

Sam Engelhardt is the chef/owner of En Passant restaurant in Logan Square.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times

En Passant’s choucroute garnie is a well-rounded dish because the acidity of the sauerkraut cuts through the fat of the bacon and bratwurst. The Yukon gold potatoes that are also served with the dish add a neutrality that balances out the plate, Engelhardt said.

The dish is also topped off with a little cherry gastrique — a reduction of cherry vinegar — which adds a little sweetness to the meal.

“That is not traditional by any means but it’s something that kind of, I guess, lightens the approach for somebody that didn’t grow up eating sauerkraut and might not want some super vinegary thing in their mouth,” Engelhardt said.

Engelhardt said the choucroute garnie pays homage to his family heritage.

“I grew up in a German family and the dish we’re doing here is like Alsatian, which is ... in France now [but] was once German,” he said. “So I guess that’s why [he added it to the menu], because it’s from my family. Reminds me of that.”

En Passant, 3010 W. Diversey Ave. The choucroute garnie costs $21. https://www.enpassantchicago.com.

Got a favorite dish from a Chicago-area restaurant? Let us know via email at: dishinonthedish@suntimes.com.