Monday, April 25, 2011

Beer-Braised Brats

Recently I took a trip to New Ulm and made a stop at The Sausage Shoppe. They had a package of beer brats that were calling my name. I decided to give those brats a good home.

Usually when we have brats, Mr. Kim Chee just tosses them on the grill. But I wanted to do something a little special with these guys. So I decided to braise them in sauerkraut and beer before giving them a quick toss on the grill. The result--amazing!

You can braise the brats on the grill, on the stovetop, or even in the oven. I went with on the stove, just because it was the easiest for me, but if you're having a large party, a big roasting pan full of the braised brats right next to the grill would be the perfect place.

To start, slice an onion into thick rings.

Lay the rings across the bottom of whatever pan you choose to hold your braising liquid.

The onions add flavor and they also help keep the brats off the bottom of the pan.

Lay a bed of sauerkraut over the top of the onions.

Is there somewhere in New Ulm that sells homemade kraut? I'd love to have some but don't know where to look. Suggestions would be welcome!

Stick a bay leaf right in the center of the kraut.

Here are the beer brats. You can use any fresh, uncooked brats.

Use the tip of a knife to gently poke the brat casing. This will help your brats absorb the braising liquid, as well as prevent them from bursting when on the grill. Make about a dozen small holes all over the brat.

Arrange the brats on top of the bed of sauerkraut.

Nestle a couple of well-smashed garlic cloves in with the brats, if you so desire.

Now for the beer. My brats were made with Schell's beer, and I would have loved to use some of the same beer to tie everything together. But Schell's has gotten a bit expensive and we didn't have any in our fridge. We did have Killian's, so I used that.

I poured in the whole bottle.

Those look like happy brats.

I turned on the stove and let the liquid come to a boil. Once it did, I turned the heat down to a simmer and covered the pan.

After about 10 minutes, I took the pan off the heat and let the brats hang out for a bit. You could let them rest as short as 5 minutes; mine rested a bit longer, as we had to pick up The Kid from preschool.

If you wanted to skip the grilling part, I would recommend letting the brats simmer for another 10 or so minutes, to make sure they're fully cooked through. If you were having people over and were grilling brats as-needed, you could just leave them in the cooling liquid until they needed to go on the grill.

The brats got grilled on medium-high heat for a few minutes a side--just to get some nice grill color and flavor.

Mr. Kim Chee topped his brats off with plain ketchup and some of the kraut used for braising the brats.

If you wanted, you could pick out the onions that were used for braising and cut them into more manageable pieces. Then you could cook them on the stove over low with maybe a little butter until they became caramelized.

My brats got dressed in ketchup and relish and some pieces of Red Dragon cheese (which is, by the way, amazing! It's a creamy, cheddarlike cheese made with brown ale and mustard seeds. We had burgers a few nights before that were topped with this cheese. It's great.)

Whether you go fancy or simple, these Beer-Braised Brats are sure to be a hit!

Recipe: Beer-Braised Brats

1 onion, sliced into thick rings
2 c. sauerkraut
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, well smashed
6 brats

1 bottle beer

Lay onion slices along the bottom of a pan. Cover the onions with sauerkraut.

Nestle bay leaf and garlic in the sauerkraut.

Lay brats over the top of the sauerkraut. Pour beer into the pan.

Turn on heat under pan; once the braising liquid begins to boil, decrease heat so liquid simmers. Cover pan and let simmer for 10 minutes.

Turn off heat and let brats rest in liquid for at least 5 minutes.

Grill brats 3-4 minutes per side to get nice grill marks. Top with favorite condiments and serve!

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