Baby tomatoes

Baby tomatoes

Friday, May 16, 2014

German with a sweet twist

Sticking to traditional recipes is very important to me. I love the history and stories and uniqueness foods from other cultures have. Growing up with a German mother, I often had REAL German food, prepared by a real born and raised German cook. Simple flavors, meat and potatoes meals, the occasional splurge of something truly remarkable, my childhood of German cuisine was filled with deliciousness. Whether it was my mom's German lentil soup and potato pancakes, or weiner schnitzel from a German restaurant in Chicago, or lunch on a Rhine River cruise, I got to experience it all.

While I have an immense respect and curiosity for truly genuine regional and ethnic cuisines, it's also fun once in a while to try a little fun spin on flavors, shake things up a bit and see what happens. Americans are famous for doing this. We recreate "Mexican food" to suit our eating habits. Italian dishes have met the same fate. It's not a bad thing, just something we do.

Some foods just invite some adventure. Take sausages, for example. A renewed interest in charcuterie and sausage-making has spawned a generation of chefs and foodies that like to get creative with the grinds and flavors and bring new life to ages old recipes. Bratwurst happens to be one of those foods. Seems simple enough- ground meat, flavorings, stuff in a casing. But some combos just don't add enough "oomph" and others are way over the top.

Here in Iowa we have a chain of grocery stores called HyVee. Over the years HyVee has grown from the smallish neighborhood grocery store of my childhood to these giant, cavernous, overwhelming behemoths that contain everything your culinary heart could desire. Endless varieties of produce, both organic and not. Meat counters half a city block long. Bakeries cranking out artisan breads alongside the peanut butter cookies. Aisle after aisle of every ethnic food you can possibly imagine. You can get supplies to make sushi, Froot Loops, organic canned tomatoes and red wheat berries from the bulk foods section. Toss a couple Calphalon skillets in the cart, stock up on Dr. Pepper and off you go. 

It should be no surprise then that the meat counter included at least ten different flavors of bratwurst. Seriously. Jalapeno. Pineapple. Green onion. Traditional. On and on they stretch. So many choices. Of course we had to try the pineapple (yum!!) and the jalapeno (double yum!!) but one flavor really jumped out at me, and said "Cook me.......with a creamy mustard sauce and fried apples" and that was the Apple Spice Bratwurst. I just had to have it!

So today for dinner, we won't really have a "recipe" to work from, other than the sauce. Instead we are going to pan fry the sausage to get some delicious fond going on as a flavor base for our sauce. Bratwurst works well for this because of the pork fat, and the added sweetness of the apples will add sugar to the mix, creating crunchy, tasty browned bits that will be so amazing. A hit of grainy German-style mustard, finished with cream and some butter, and we will have a yummy masterpiece! Fried cabbage and onions on the side will tie it all together nicely.

How were the bratwurst? Fantastic! The pork stays nice and juicy inside the casing when you use tongs to turn them instead of poking with a fork. The apple and spice flavors are the perfect accent to pork and don't disappoint in these sausages.There were lots of chunks of juicy apple in the sausages and the spices reminded me of a sweet breakfast sausage. I wasn't too worried- after all, the pineapple and jalapeno bratwurst were delicious also. 

Next time you're out and about, cruise by the meat counter of your favorite store. Look for something new and different and interesting. Step outside of your comfort zone and check out new flavors. You might be very happy you did!

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