Dean’s Braised Chops with Sauerkraut & Chile-Garlic Dumplings.

My friend Dean Kumbalek does some seriously fine cooking, growing, and preserving of fantastic things to eat. When Dean posted up sauerkraut braised pork chops and dumplings, I knew I was gonna have to take a swing at it and share the results, just as he did.

Dean’s glorious dish

Dean prefaced his post with the following, which speaks perfectly to what great cooking really is all about – ‘As Igor Stravinsky once said, it is best to work within limitations’ – Rarely do we have everything we want when figuring out what to cook, but we almost always have what we need. What Dean worked up was a truly delicious dish that may sound complicated, but is really quick and easy to prep and cook.

Braising is a two step cooking process, with an initial high heat sear followed by a low heat finish. The quick sear locks flavor into a protein, while a slow, steamy finish develops deep flavors and makes for seriously tender vittles.

We both did this with pork chops, but you could do the same with chicken, or beef, or extra firm tofu. As for what to do to the protein prior to cooking, Dean oiled and seasoned with sage, nigella seed and paprika, then rested his chops, while I went for a dry coating just prior to searing.

For searing, Dean mentioned cast iron or grilling, and both will do a great job and impart some great flavor notes to the finished dish. We both went with cast iron – then I decided I needed a bigger pan, and ended up deploying a heavy braiser for part two of the cooking process.

The low and slow was done with sauerkraut and stock for the liquid and flavor components, and savory dumplings added to the mix. Dean did mushroom/garlic/chile for his, but my crew nixed the shrooms, so I had to pick another umami bomb – I went with fish sauce. What we got was fork tender pork, delicious slaw, and fluffy, spicy dumplings. It was stunningly delicious, so Big Thanks to Dean, and I can’t wait to do this again with chicken and tofu!

For the Chop/Chicken/Tofu Sear

1/2 Cup Wondra Flour

2 Tablespoons Pineapple Vinegar (cider is fine)

1/2 teaspoon Granulated Onion

1/2 teaspoon Ground Pepper

1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt

2-3 sprigs fresh Rosemary

Pat your proteins dry with a clean towel.

Combine all dry ingredients and blend well.

Lightly dredge each side in the flour mix.

Heat a Dutch oven or braiser over medium high heat.

Add a tablespoon of butter and allow to melt, then add the vinegar and whisk with a fork to incorporate.

Set proteins in hot pan and sear for 2-3 minutes until a golden brown crust forms.

Flip the proteins and repeat on the other side(s)

Remove proteins from pan and set on a platter.

Turn heat off but leave the pan as is.

For the Dumplings

2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Whole Milk
2 large Eggs
2 Tablespoons Avocado Oil
1-2 Tablespoon Green Hatch Chile Powder
2 Cloves fresh Garlic
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/2 teaspoon Red Boat Fish Sauce

Pull and milk and eggs from fridge and allow to come to room temperature.

Peel, end trim, and mince garlic.

Combine all dry ingredients and blend well.

Combine wet and dry and mix with a spoon – you want a fairly loose batter to begin with.

Let batter rest for 15-30 minutes or so, during which it will tighten up and become more elastic.

You want batter just loose enough to drop from a spoon – not sloppy, as it will absorb liquid from the braise – add a little flour or milk to adjust if needed.

For the Protein Low and Slow

2 packed Cups Sauerkraut

1-2 Cups Chicken Stock

Heat the dutch oven or braiser back up over medium heat.

Add about a half cup of stock to the reheated pan and scrape all the naughty bits off the bottom.

Add the sauerkraut and enough stock to bring the liquid level just below the top of the kraut level.

Place proteins evenly across the top of the kraut and stock mix.

When the mix starts to simmer, give dumpling batter a good stir, then place nice big dollops on top of each protein, and more in the gaps if you’ve got enough batter – you want dumplings about the size of a small lemon.

Cover the pan and reduce heat to low. Allow dish to simmer and steam for 30 minutes.

Remove lid and test dumplings with a toothpick – if it come out of the middle clean, you’re there.

Serve with a crisp salad, devour, and dream about what version you’ll make next.