While I try to have a lot of variety in my cooking, there’s still a ton I haven’t tried. For some reason, German food has been stuck in this category for a long time and I’ve been meaning to remedy this for…just as long a time. Finally though, after hearing mention of beer brats at work, I couldn’t take it any more and decided to try to dress up this comfort food to be more than what most view it as: a glorified hot dog (so don’t go putting bratwurst in hotdog buns! Its better than that!).
This is a simple meal to prepare, and its really big on flavor. The brats are parboiled in a mixture of beer, shallots, and spices (think the sweet but savory, clean flavors of juniper and caraway) before they get crisped up with the smoky flavor of the grill, leaving the beer mixture to reduce to a thick sauce. These are served alongside some tender, buttery sautéed potatoes and a refreshing but tangy slaw of apples, carrots, and peppers.
The meal sounds simple, but oh it was incredible. The brats had a great, charred crust, with a tender, almost sweet flavored, very porky inside. The reduced beer/shallot sauce was also surprisingly rich and potent in flavor–almost like a savory, caraway perfumed molasses. The slaw was also shockingly good–and this is coming from someone who isn’t a slaw person! It was tart, tangy, and had a great variety of contrasting textures and flavors. Crisp, cool, tender, revitalizing, tangy, acidic–it was really just a fantastic source of flavor relief on the plate next to the brats.
- ~1-1.5 lbs bratwurst
- Beer Sauce
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 baby leek
- 1 shallot
- 4 juniper berries
- 1 tsp carraway seeds
- 1 bay leaf
- small handful fresh parsely
- 1 bottle (~12 oz) beer (I used an English ale)
- Tangy Apple Slaw
- 1 apple
- 1 carrot
- 1 sweet red pepper
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2-3 baby leeks
- 1/8 cup cider vinegar
- 2 tsp carraway seeds
- 1/2 tsp celery seed
- small handful fresh parsely
- 2 tsp dijon
- Optional: 2 tsp quark (either sour or heavy cream works as an adequate substitute)
Begin with the slaw. Slice the leeks thinly and peel both the carrot and apple. Cut the carrot, pepper, and apple into long, thin strips. Melt a knob of butter and sweat the leeks, carrot, and pepper for about 5 minutes over medium heat to soften them a bit. Add the caraway and celery seeds before deglazing the pan with cider vinegar.
In a bowl, add the lemon juice and dijon. Beat well before tossing the apple slivers in this mixture. Add the softened veggie mixture to the bowl. Finally, add the chopped parsely, quark, and salt & pepper to taste. Toss this well and sample it. Consider adjusting the vinegar, dijon, salt, or quark if you think the slaw needs tweaking. Cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the meal.
Now, sweat the coarsely chopped leek and shallot in a saucepan in a bit of melted butter. After 5 minutes or so, add the crushed juniper berries, Bay leaf, parsely, and caraway seeds before you pour in the beer. Give things a good stir and once the mixture reaches a simmer, add the bratwurst to the pot. Allow this to simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the sausages are cooked through. I did this on the grill to keep my life simple.
During all of this, I also coarsely chopped up some yukon gold potatoes and sautéed them in a generous bit of butter (also on the grill for roughly 15 minutes) with a dusting of salt, pepper, and caraway.
Once the brats are done simmering, carefully remove from the pot and put them directly on the grill (and plan ahead–the part of your grill where you’re simmering should be on a fairly low heat. The part where the brats now go? Medium-high heat) for no more than 5 minutes. This is to give the exterior a nice deep, dark, charred, caramelized flavor. Be careful during this process–if you puncture the sausage, a good bit of liquid and fat might squirt out and could result in some surprise flare ups on your grill, and nothing says surprise like singed eye brows. I’m just saying.
While the brats finish up, reduce the beer mixture over medium-high heat until almost syrupy so that you can use it as a sauce.
Finally, the meal is ready. Simply add a scoop of potatoes, slaw, and some brats on your plate, drizzle on a bit of the beer sauce with the shallots/leeks from the pot, and dig in. Enjoy!