On Wisconsin Brats: a Six-Pack Stew
A pound of brats & a six-pack without a recipe. Let’s cook.
Throw me a brat and a brew, and I’ll tell you a thing or two about Madison, Wisconsin, where I learned to consume both in liberal quantities. Ha! Here goes the revelation of my vintage, another ol’ Boomer, coming-of age in those heady years of campus “unrest” (as it’s euphemistically recalled) during the late 60’s and early 70’s.
My adult sons never seem to tire of hearing tales from the Vietnam antiwar era, the battle cries of the flower children, the student rallies on Bascom Hill, the marches up State Street to the Capitol building, the student strike that brought in the National Guard and shut down the university in the wake of the Kent State shootings in the spring of 1970. “Tell us again, Ma, how many times were you tear gassed? No, really? And what were you thinking in a student picket line in front of the library?”
The library! Of all places for an English major to protest. I was there forty years ago, and to this day, that’s a political action of which I’m not particularly proud. Hell, no! We didn’t go.”
Fast forward: today the touristy and chirpy State Street Brats, a sports bar and grill, bears little resemblance to The Brat Haus of my memory, a Madison institution, serving brats, cheese curds, and beer since the 30’s, forty years before I set foot through its doors.
Forty years. In a blink, there it is: a biblical expanse of time, not to mention, the span between the two movies True Grit. Down in a bite. Gone in a swallow. And back in vivid memory, as I unwrap a 6-pack of brats today. So...
And on to the Kitchen Challenge, bratwurst and "bratwash," Wisconsin’s soul food:
With a quick scan on the Internet, you’ll find no end to instruction and
protocols of preparing, serving, and sharing the Perfect Brat Experience.
To chill or not to chill the brats before cooking?
To prick or not to prick the meat?
To simmer in beer before or after the grilling?
To charcoal grill or to braise?
Yellow mustard or Dusseldorf brown?
Bun or Bavarian roll?
One brat or two to the roll?
Light beer or dark?
Toppings? Sides? Potato salads?
More on How to BratTo get your juices really flowing, go to The Bratwurst Pages
While I concede that Best Brats Ever are grilled, January is generally not grilling season in Michigan. The current temperature is 3 degrees Fahrenheit
, and I am not about to step outside to de-ice my grill. What I have in mind for you is an improvisation more suitable to the weather conditions, a recipe of my own invention with beer and brats and (sorry, guys) fresh veggies. I call it:
Six-Pack Brat Stew
Think of it as a coq au vin without the coq or the vin. Or cassoulet without the beans or the olé. This recipe is an Open Salon original, seen here for the first time, so by all means, proceed at your own discretion.
Six pack beer (brand of your choosing, all the better with a Wisconsin brew)
One pound bratwurst (about 6 links)
4 or 5 Yukon Gold potatoes
1 large onion
3 to 5 cloves garlic
1 fresh fennel bulb
1 large red pepper
1 or 2 Serrano peppers
Sprig of fresh savory
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: diced tomatoes
No instructions necessary, but here’s what do:
- Divide the six pack in two. Sacrifice two bottles into an 8 quart pot. Reserve the rest for your drinking pleasure.
- Heat the beer to the temperature of a warm bath, add brats, onions, and potatoes. Careful not to boil. (Boiling, I’m told, causes the sausage casings to burst.)
- In a separate pan heat olive oil; add garlic, peppers, fennel and lightly brown
- Removed poached brats from beer bath and pat dry (no worries, they will be an unappealing shade of grey)
- Braise brats until well browned all-round, slice and add to vegetables
- With slotted spoon remove onions and potatoes from the beer bath; deglaze pan used for brats with onion & potato mixture, and sautee until potatoes are browned
- Add onions and potatoes to brats and veggies, add herbs, pour about a cup of the remaining beerwash into the stew.
Prep time: about a hour before game time.
Taste: not grilled, but not bad, if I say so myself.
Serves about 4.
So triple the recipe, pick up a keg and an order of wings, invite friends, and enjoy!
Go Green Bay!
And thanks for dropping by.