Spicy Sweet & Sour Casserole

I

have no idea what this dish is actually called, so I like to use the non-descriptive and open to interpretation name in the title.

I have a particular predilection for spicy food, while the sweet/sour combination is not one that I have been very familiar with from my early (cooking) life.

On the other hand, I have learned to appreciate all sorts of flavours and also never to say “I don’t like that” before having actually tried it; therefore, please keep an open mind, try the Casserole and if you don’t like it… well, then never cook it again in your entire life.

I was also a bit skeptic about it when I first read the recipe (do you really think I would made up something like this myself?). I like all the ingredients one by one (will tell you later which they are) but I had never thought I could eat them all together in one dish or even cook them in the same pan.

If you don’t like curry, chicken, stewed pears or sauerkraut, then leave this page immediately and move on to something less daring.

If you are intrigued, read the ingredients and preparation here below… you will be rewarded.

INGREDIENTS (roughly 4 persons)

  • 800 gr. medium-sized potatoes (Try to find a variety that is suited to make a puree. I like to use fine-grained varieties that will not overcook or crumble too easily. I like my puree fine and creamy)
  • 350 gr. chicken breast, sliced and diced (Probably you can find some sliced-and-diced, ready-to-use one, but I still prefer to choose my own chicken breast and slice it into stripes which I then dice. Keep in mind that the meat will shrink a little during cooking so avoid to end up with too small pieces)
  • 500 gr. (approx.) Sauerkraut (Here again, you may be fortunate and live in Germany so you can get it fresh from a greengrocer’s or a Deli; if you live elsewhere, then a packaged variety is equally good, as long as you choose the “natural” sort, not spiced, with added pepper, wine or whatever…)
  • 2 large stewed pears (This is matter of luck… if you know how to stew pears and you are in the right season, I’d say go ahead and make them yourself. In the remaining 90% of the cases, there are some seriously delicious stewed pears in jars in almost any European supermarket or Deli. Choose the ones that have the least added sugars, if ever)
  • 30 gr. butter (Or margarine, if you want to keep this low-fat, but hey… 30 grams of real butter have never killed 4 people)
  • 2 large (red) onions (Here again: I prefer the mellow-tasting red onions to the more strong and bitter white ones, but this is still a matter of personal taste)
  • 150 gr. grated cheese (but do not use Parmesan or Grana Padano, for chrissake! Use mature but still soft cheese; it tastes better on top of the casserole and melts much more nicely with the ingredients)
  • 1.5 tbsp curry powder (There are dozens of different sorts at many spiciness levels. Choose the one that better suits your palate, and that of your guests)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste, but think about your blood pressure and that of your guests. Never overdo!)
  • Optional: 2-3 tbsp lukewarm milk

PREPARATION

The potatoes must go in first…

Make sure you take into account the time they need to cook, in relation to the cooking times of the other  ingredients.

There is no fixed timing. Generally, the potatoes will take up most of the total cooking time and some varieties will need even 20-30 minutes to cook.
Keep this in mind when planning your steps.

Chop the onions (not too fine).

Melt the butter in a pan and gently bring it up to temperature. Try not to make it too hot. A light nutty brown colour is perfect, darker than that is just rubbish: throw it away and start all over again.

Add the onions at this point and leave to gently simmer until the onions are soft and glassy. Remember never allow the butter to become dark!

In the meantime, pour the sauerkraut in a sieve and let it leak dry.
Use a fork to fluff it up a bit.
This will make your job easier later on.

Add the diced chicken breast to the onions, salt and pepper to your taste and allow 4 minutes to cook.

Scatter the curry powder in the pan and mix thoroughly until the chicken has gained a nice yellow tint.

Put off the heat and leave it cool off for a couple of minutes.

At this point, your potatoes should be ready.
Pour the potatoes in a colander and keep 150-200 ml. of the cooking water aside.

Begin with roughly mashing the potatoes (please, do that by hand!), then pour a little bit (4-5 spoonfuls) of cooking water in the mash, keep on mashing and add little amounts of cooking water until you have a nice and soft puree.

You may want to add some lukewarm milk (3-4 tbsp.) instead of only cooking water, just to make the puree more “fluffy”.
Here again, the exact amount and outcome will depend on the variety of potatoes you have chosen and your own taste.
Knock yourself out and experiment…

Cut the stewed pears into thin slices.
You can use the syrup as a beverage, mixed with water or you can throw it away; once again, the choice is yours.

Lay the chicken at the bottom of an oven casserole (or anything with some depth that you can put in an oven). I prefer a non-metallic casserole but that is, once again, your choice.

Spread the sauerkraut on the chicken as evenly as possible.

Make a new layer on the sauerkraut with the stewed pears slices.

Cover the whole with the puree. Make sure that the puree is evenly distributed and especially that there are no “holes”. I normally use a large spoon dipped in warm water (to avoid “sticking”) to spread the puree and to make sure that the edges are also “sealed”.

Sealing the edges will preserve the lower layers from overcooking and will also prevent that boiling fluids start to spill out of the casserole or make the puree layer too moist.

Finally, sprinkle the grated cheese on top of the puree layer.

Put the casserole on the middle shelf of a pre-heated oven  (around 190-200 °C) for 30 minutes.

After cooking, leave the casserole to settle for about 10 minutes and then serve.

Enjoy!

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