Wednesday, November 7, 2007

It sounds so good...

There comes a time in every person's life when they need to deal with disappointment. Disappointment happens when results don't meet expectations. Maybe my expectations were to high? I happened across this recipe for Bratwurst in Beer Sauce while thumbing through The Cuisines of Germany by Horst Scharfenberg. I think I picked up the cookbook because of the author's cool name. If I were a boy I'd want to be named something like Horst Scharfenberg. And According to Amazon the cookbook got rave reviews, but this is the only thing I've made out of it. The Bratwurst weren't bad, but they weren't great either. How depressing.

When I find something to be disappointing in the kitchen it usually breaks down to one of two things (here's where evidence of me being analytical and OCD appears). Either 1) I have strayed from the recipe, or 2) the recipe itself isn't so hot. In the first case, I can break that down even further: Either 1) I purposely have varied it thinking that I know better than the recipe when it turns out I don't, or 2) I meant to follow the recipe, but I did it wrong. So what happened here?

Well, Horst's recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of dark beer. I have to admit, I don't really drink that much anymore. Once upon a time I had several different kinds of beer sitting in the fridge and people who came over would have a nice selection to choose from, pilsners, ales, lagers, dark beers, wheat beers, you name it. But then I graduated and got a real job. So when the Brain and I went to the local grocery at 9am on Sunday to get beer, we selected a variety pack of Great Lakes Beer, made in Cleveland. I'm keeping it local. And yes, you can buy beer in Ohio at 9am on a Sunday. Who knew? We do have some beer in the garage fridge, but it's mostly of the Bud Light / Michelob Ultra variety. Crap, we've turned into my parents.

The darkest beer of the variety pack was the
Eliot Ness Amber Lager. Clearly the website shows this is supposed to be served with sausages. Don't get me wrong, it smelled great while it was cooking. I was salivating away. I was wishing it was a Saturday afternoon and I could make spatzle too (I have no idea how to add an umlaut in blogger). I made some egg noodles and waited for dinner to be done. So there was this big buildup that I was going to eat this fantastic supper. (out of control expectations might not be a good idea). But then I tasted it. And things fell flat. The initial burst of flavor was great and then whamo in the back of the throat I got a kick. It was like the kick you get when you drink a strong beer after drinking Mich Ultra for the last 3 years intensified by 20. ACK! It was very very lagery.

So what went wrong? Was it me? Was it the recipe? I struggled to get my brain around my defeat. Should I shove this book to the basement stairs bookshelf to gather dust? Here's my hypothesis: The results didn't turn out bad enough for me to say that the recipe itself is bad. The Brain wasn't effusive with praise about it either so it wasn't just me. That said, I got an "it's fine." out of him before he finished off all the leftovers so it couldn't have been that bad.

I know from college and my years of bartending that different styles of beers have different finishes. I believe what happened here was that I strayed from the written recipe in going with the Amber Lager. I believe if I went with a rich and creamy beer like Guinness then it might come out completely better. I may have to steal a Guinness from my mother in law's fridge and try it out all over again. The Elliot Ness, we'll just save for drinking.

I do wonder, if this recipe changes dramatically depending on the finish of the beer, how it would taste made with pumpkin beer? If I could find any pumpkin beer, I might have to try it out too.

Horst (I will have to name a son Horst) prefaces his recipe as follows:
"'Proud Heinrich' is the name by which this dish is generally known in it's native city." The native city would be Berlin.

Bratwurst in Beer Sauce
Stolzer Heinrich

4 Bratwursts or sweet Italian sausage
1-2 Tbsp flour
1-2 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups dark beer
3-4 Tbsp gingersnap crumbs
1 Tbsp grated onion
salt and freshly ground pepper
several tablespoons concentrated beef stock *
1-2 Tbsp lemon juice

Poke a few holes in the bratwurst with the tines of a fork to keep them from bursting. dredge them in flour. In a skilletmelt the butter and fry the wurst on both sides. Remove them from the skillet and set aside.

Pour the beer into the skillet and deglaze the skillet (scrape off the browned particles clinging to sides and bottom). Sprinkle in the ginger cookie crumbs and grated onion and cook together for about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, a little beef stock, and lemon juice, and cook for 2 or 3 minutes more. Reduce heat, return the bratwurst to the skillet, and cook until heated through.

Makes 2-4 servings.

* I have no idea where to find concentrated beef stock, so I added 1 cup regular beef stock. By the time the recipe calls for the stock, most of the liquid in mine had cooked down and it was really really thick. I think I won't cook it for the full 10 minutes next time.

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