Writer in the Kitchen: Bratwurst and Sauerkraut to Die ForSeptember 5, 2013
The best part about fall: The food
I’m always a little sad when summer ends, but nothing chases those blues away like a good, hearty autumn meal. Oktoberfest being right around the corner, I got a hankering last night for some German cuisine – and found on Epicurious a recipe for Bratwurst with Sauerkraut and Apples that was so good, I’m eating the leftovers for breakfast this morning.
It’s so good, I absolutely must share it with you.
Deceptively simple to prepare, this dish, as with all fine cuisine, starts with the best ingredients you can find.
You’ll need 4-6 bratwurst: I got mine at the Parkside Grocery down the street from my house, a little Hutterite-owned store with an in-house butcher. They are utterly delicious.
You’ll also want to get fresh sauerkraut, if possible. I used Bubbie’s brand, which is all-natural. When my novel is finished, I might even try making my own kraut, although it’s hard to imagine its tasting better than Bubbie’s.
The original recipe for this dish called for some things I didn’t have: Wondra flour, which is a finely ground, “instant” flour (I used cake flour, but reviews on Epicurious say all-purpose works fine); vermouth (I used red wine); beef broth (homemade chicken broth). I also had only one apple, while the recipe calls for 3. I think 3 apples would have made the dish too sweet.
I didn’t pay attention to the cooking time, which is a bad habit of mine. After the initial 45 minutes of cooking, you’ll remove the foil from the dish and brush melted butter on the brats, then cook for another 25 minutes until they are toasty brown. We didn’t eat until around 10:15 p.m., but the result was well worth the wait — crunchy and savory and tangy and salty and a little bit sweet. Bob had seconds. I really, really wanted to, but now, as I savor the deliciousness this morning, I’m so glad I exercised the self-restraint that, at the time, felt heroic.
And now, the recipe:
To make this dish, crush 1 tablespoon caraway seeds and 1 tablespoon fennel seeds and mix them with 1 tablespoon flour and about 1/2 tablespoon black pepper. You can do this in a plastic bag or, as I did, in a mortar and pestle. Sprinkle 1/3 of the flour mixture over the bottom of a 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass or ceramic dish.
Slice 1/2 of a large onion and a whole, cored apple very thinly. Rinse the sauerkraut – my jar was 25 ounces or so – and squeeze it dry.
Spread the onion over the flour-seed mixture. Top it with half the remaining flour-seeds, then half the apple slices, then the rest of the flour. Spread the sauerkraut on top of that, then arrange the brats over all.
Mix together 3/4 cup chicken broth, 2 tablespoons wine or vermouth (one reviewer said cider vinegar works well, too), and 2 tablespoons ketchup, then pour it over the dish. Tuck in four bay leaves. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Savor the aromas that will fill your house, and mouth, with gustatory anticipation.
Uncover the dish and brush 1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter onto the brats. Cook for 25 minutes more. Serve with black bread and a hearty German beer. Or, if you don’t have beer, wine will more than suffice. We had a delicious Spanish garnacha, Evodia, which I got from my favorite wine shop, Vino!, at a very good price. (I have never had a bad wine from this great little Spokane store.)
Now, dig in! Try to avoid eating the entire dish in one sitting, though. It won’t be easy, but you’ll thank yourself in the morning.
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