Sunday, July 17, 2011


We decided to start with Wisconsin--land of hearty Midwestern food, German influences, cheese and beer! All good things, as far as we're concerned. We decided to go with brats and potato salad. If you're not a Midwesterner, you might wonder why we would decide to eat a poorly-behaved child. It's pronounced "brahts" and is short for bratwurst, a German sausage commonly part of a summer cook-out in the upper Midwest. Since Wisconsin has a large German-American population, this seemed an easy choice. We had your basic potato salad on the side, along with a bottle of Schlitz (the beer that made Milwaukee famous) for the grown-ups. All we lacked was the polka band in our dining room to make a true Wisconsin experience. (OK, to be fair, most Wisconsin-ites probably don't hire polka bands for Sunday dinner, but wouldn't that be fun?!)

Now, for the reviews. In truth, part of the goal of this project is to encourage the more picky eaters in the family to try new items. Marc and I are fully within our culinary comfort zones--sausage, onions, potato salad and beer. The younger set required a little more convincing. Maia (10) chose to take on her brat, sans bun or dipping sauce. She sawed into it like a champ and declared it "good." (ta-dah!). Lucy (8), took a bit more convincing. She opted for her brat on a bun with ketchup and initially resisted trying it. Eventually, she took the tiniest of nibbles, screwed up her face and declared it "disgusting." We gently (ahem) encouraged her to have another couple of bites. Soon, she said "actually, it's ok."

The potato salad, on the other hand, was less successful. Maia could tolerate the radishes and celery, but found the potatoes unacceptably "squishy." Lucy was horrified by the very idea of the potato salad, even after diligently cutting all the celery. Marc and I, however, thoroughly enjoyed the mayo-potato-celery-mustardy goodness.

This isn't a meal that I use a typical recipe for. My favorite way to prepare brats is to first simmer them in beer (I used good, cheap Milwaukee's Best today) then sear them briefly in a cast iron skillet to brown them. A critical component for us is the slowly browned onions. These get the "low and slow" treatment in a cast iron pan. I start simmering the brats in the beer at the same time I start the onions, by the time the onions are a deep reddish-brown the brats are cooked. I take the onions out of the pan, and put the brats in to sear until they're nicely brown on each side. Alternatively, you could sear them on a hot grill.

The onions slowly brown in a cast iron pan.

When the onions are done, the brats go in and sear.

The potato salad is also a non-recipe dish in our house. I started with red potatoes from our CSA and included eggs from a friend up the road who has a delightful variety of laying hens. Marc and I did each have differing views as to the necessary crunch deliverers in the dish. His mother always used celery, my mother always used radishes. In the end, I compromised and used both. Include some spring onions, mayo, mustard, dill relish, celery seed and salt. A summer classic.

Next up, Florida! Fish, citrus, Cuban? So many possibilities!

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