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! Spoken like an 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.
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.
A quick scan on the Internet will reveal no end to “bratwash” instruction and the 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?
I concede that Best Brats Ever are grilled. Simple. What I have in mind here is an improvisation I call 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 my interpretation of pub food for a crowd, so by all means, proceed at your own discretion.
6 to 8
bottles of beer, brand of your own choosing
bratwurst, about 6 links
Yukon Gold potatoes
large onion, diced
cloves garlic, minced
fennel bulb, chopped
large sweet red pepper, chopped
1 or 2
fresh savory, minced
fresh cilantro chopped
In This Recipe
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.