Polish kapusniak, my way. [Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]
There are hundreds of variations on classic Polish kapusniak (sauerkraut and sausage soup). My version lays no claims to authenticity, but it is simple, delicious, and deeply nourishing. Sauerkraut and fresh cabbage come together for extra flavor in the broth.
Why It Works
- Adding the ingredients to the same pot in stages allows you to build up flavors in a short period of time.
- Bacon and kielbasa bring a rich, porky, smoky flavor to the soup.
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) vegetable oil
- 6 ounces (175g) slab bacon, cut into 1/4- by 1/2-inch pieces
- 12 ounces (350g) kielbasa or other smoked Polish sausage, split lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced (about 6 ounces; 175g)
- 1 medium carrot, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 4 ounces; 120g)
- 1 small head cabbage, cut into 1/2- to 1/4-inch shreds (about 12 ounces; 350g)
- 8 ounces sauerkraut with juice (1 cup; 240ml)
- 8 cups (1.9L) homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 cup (60ml) chopped fresh dill, stems reserved separately
- 1 large russet potato, peeled, split in quarters lengthwise, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 10 ounces; 280g)
- Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon (10g) cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons (8g) paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon (2g) freshly ground white pepper, plus more for seasoning
- Fresh crusty bread, for serving
Heat oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add bacon and kielbasa and cook, stirring, until fat is rendering and bacon and sausage are browning in spots, about 5 minutes. Add onion and carrot and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add cabbage and cook, stirring, until lightly wilted, about 3 minutes. Add sauerkraut with its juice, chicken stock, bay leaves, dill stems, and potato. Season to taste with salt.
Increase heat to high and bring soup to a boil. Reduce to a bare simmer and cook until potato is tender, about 10 minutes. Stir together cornstarch, paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon white pepper in a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon (15ml) cold water and stir to form a slurry. Pour slurry into the soup and stir until evenly distributed. Return to a boil (soup should thicken very slightly). Season to taste with more salt and white pepper as desired. Stir in chopped dill and serve with bread.
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