Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cheap Bastid's Brat Burgers

We’ve just about quit eating bacon at our place. Have you noticed how damned expensive it’s gotten this year? Our favorite brand (best quality and best price) at the grocery store has gone from $1.99 a pound about 6 months ago to $3.49.

Maybe I ought to check out pork futures on the Chicago Exchange or something but that increase is just ridiculous. I’ll just about guarantee that farmer’s aren't getting 75% more for their pork or that the cost of producing bacon at processing facilities hasn’t gone up 75%. Does the price increase have something to do with “foodies” watching every second of “Top Chef” and emulating everything those contestants do? It seems like on the cooking shows that everything is now accompanied by bacon. Or that bacon fat is considered the best flavor in the Western World and used in everything up to and including liquid nitrogen frozen ice cream.

The last bacon we bought was $1.69 a pound. I bought a pound and a half tray of “ends and pieces”. There was about a pound of good slices and about a half pound of trimmings including some almost pure fat and some almost pure ham. But that half pound translated into an incredible Spaghetti Carbonara. These guys are sure making it hard for a Cheap Bastid like me to stay cheap.

So, recently I came across a quickie recipe from one of the websites that send me stuff on food. It’s something I haven’t done in 25 or more years and we liked it so much that we did it again over the weekend this time taking a few requisite pictures for my occasional Cheap Bastid “Show and Tells”.

I’ve loved bratwurst for decades in all its forms and variations. And while this is almost the epitome of the kind of “proletarian” food I’m most fond of, bratwurst takes more than a bit of technique to cook so that it’s tasty and not some tube of charred plumbing pipe slathered with mustard on a bun. To me the “trick” has always been to parboil the brat first and then just to brown them on the grill—keeping the flavor and juiciness of the sausage.

Back in the time when I lived in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin and other parts of the upper Midwest, I’d come across brat patties occasionally—essentially bratwurst without the casing—and from time to time I’d buy some and cook it on the grill. Not too bad, but the “pre-made” patty often got over cooked and dried out just like it’s cased-cousin.

So I recently stumbled on an incredible solution. Make your own patties! Those looser, less precisely shaped patties that you make by rolling the meat into a ball and then pressing it into a patty with your hands. It’s looser and, like ground beef, makes for a better, tastier patty.

Here’s the “recipe”.

Cheap Bastid’s Brat Burgers
1 lb bratwurst or ground pork
1 can sauerkraut
Your favorite burger buns

If using brats, slit the casings, remove the meat and throw out the casing. If using ground pork dump it in a bowl and then add salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste (or look up bratwurst seasoning online—spice recipes I found used salt, white pepper, mace, marjoram, caraway seed and onion powder). Form patties (I like a 5 to 6 oz. patty).

Dump the sauerkraut into a pan you use on the grill (or you can heat it on the stove or in the microwave). When grill is hot, put the patties on it & flip after about 3 minutes. Put the pan of kraut on at the same time. Two flips (a total of 6-8 minutes) should be enough.

You’re looking for a nice crust on the outside with a middle that’s hot and juicy.

Put the patty on the bun, squirt with mustard, slather a good thick layer of kraut on top and add some onion. Now, enjoy! We like to accompany this with a can of cheap beans doctored up with spices and some heat.

It’s that simple. And this is surprisingly good. Really flavorful. The crust creates a great texture to go with the juicy meatiness inside. The kraut mixes in with the meat a lot better than when the meat is still in a casing. It’s an instant Octoberfest in your mouth! I’m salivating just thinking and writing about it.

The Cheap Bastid Test: Well, the best brat prices I can typically find at the grocer are $2.50 a lb. on sale. Ground pork is $2.99 a lb. I’ve done them both ways. For us, a total of 3 brats made into 2 patties is about right as is about 2/3 lb. of ground pork. So, we spent about $2 for meat and a whopping $.89 for sauerkraut and about $.25 for the buns and a buck for the beans. So, all total, the price was $4.14. That’s not bad.

That’s the Cheap Bastid Way: Eat Good. Eat Cheap. Be Grateful.

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