Thursday, April 19, 2012

Best Bratwurst

Now that the weather has turned warm again, we can all spend a little more time outside.  If you are like me, then you want to combine being outside with eating and drinking.  Joe and I have developed a pretty good system of doing just that.  But when we take it on the road – that’s when things really get good.
Please let me explain.  I don’t mean that Joe and I are good at getting drunk in public (although…), I mean that we enjoy a long afternoon of eating a little, drinking a little and repeating.  We developed this while living in California.  There was a street festival in a little beach town that offered tickets to various restaurants at a discounted price.  For instance the Thai restaurant would sell you a spring roll for 2 tickets, and tickets were a dollar each.  The point was to wander around and sample food.  Joe and I just took it to the next level.  We would try a dish of something, then head in to a bar to try a drink of something.  Usually there were one to two drinks for every dish.  The whole event was called a “Stroll and Savor” but when you outpace the eating with imbibing it quickly becomes a “Stagger and Savor” which is what we affectionately call it now.
We do this still on nice evenings; walk to our bustling one block main street, sample various appetizers and happy hour specials, then stagger our way home.  How, you may ask, does this tie into being outside – well I like to sit outside while we are at restaurants.  So there.  Some people like to get sporty in the sun, I like to get full.
The first time I ever did something like a stagger and savor was in Germany at a wine festival.  There were booths of vendors giving away samples of wine and other vendors selling food.  After hitting two or 3 wine vendors, my friends and I would go to a food vendor and share something like a crepe or pastry. 
Where we decided not to share was at the Brat tent.  The traditional way to eat German sausage, was one sausage on a piece of rye bread with lots of onions, sauerkraut and mustard.  If you are lucky, like we were on this occasion, you will sit with Germans who ask you disparaging questions about America and American culture.  “No, not all women marry for money in America. Yes, I understand that all of our reality-dating shows are based off of that premise. No I cannot offer you any high-profile examples of for love marriages.  Yes, I suppose you are right; we are a pretty greedy lot.” 
But really, I would like to focus back on the food here.  This is super easy to prepare.  The hardest part will be in procuring the best ingredients.  It is best to enjoy this meal outside with plenty of cold beer or white wine.  And if you want to stagger around afterwards, please be my guest.

Beer Brats
As with most things in life – local is always better.  If you are fortunate enough to find local sausage, local bread, local sauerkraut and local mustard – do it! If not, try to get the best quality of all of them.  For instance the kosher sauerkraut in the refrigerated section of the grocery store is far better than the canned version.

4-6 bratwursts, uncooked
2 large yellow onions
1 large keg can of beer, or 2 bottles of beer (dark or medium lager is good)
4-6 slices of 100% rye bread – or dark whole grain loaf
Fresh sauerkraut
Strong whole grain mustard

Poke the sausages with the tip of a sharp knife several times; this will help prevent the sausages from exploding while you cook them.  Place them in a large saucepan.  Cut one onion in half, and then into slices, add to the sauce pan.  Next, cut the remaining onion in half and cut off top, but leave the root end intact.  Peel off the skin, and add the onion halves to the pot.  Cover with beer.

Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer for about 10-12 minutes.  Check back frequently to make sure the beer doesn’t boil over. Meanwhile, prepare your grill for the sausages and the onion halves. 

Drain the sausages and onions from the beer.  Reserve the slice onion pieces for the sandwiches.  Grill over medium-high heat the sausages and onion halves until the sausages are golden.  Set out a platter with the rye bread, sauerkraut, boiled onions and mustard. 

To serve, each person makes and open-faced sandwich using the above ingredients; the more mustard and sauerkraut the better.

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