Bratwurst and German potato salad is one of my favorite meals to enjoy on the back porch during the spring and fall months. I’ll admit it now, the bratwurst in the photo above is homemade and it was made by me, but the recipe isn’t mine. It came straight out of the one cookbook every sausage connoisseur should own: Charcuterie – The Craft of Salting, Curing, and Smoking. I’m not going to post the recipe for the Bratwurst because I think folks should really buy this book. Form a historical standpoint, this book made me truly understand and the appreciate the art of curing meats and knowing exactly where my meat comes from. Buy… the… book… I’m being serious. Even if you don’t plan on making sausage, it’s a good read.
However, I can recommend a method for cooking your bratwurst. Most people just toss it on a grill or pan and go to town on searing it. I find that cooking this way often burns or over cooks the skins before the interior is done. One of the best methods to cook brats or any sausage is to simmer them in a pan, with the lid on, in a shallow liquid, until they are cooked through. Then finish them on the grill or in a pan. My favorite liquid to simmer my bratwurst in is beer. Oktoberfest to be specific. I’ll also chop up some onions and add them to my liquid. When the bratwurst are finish cooking, I’ll put them aside and I’ll finish cooking down the beer and onions until thick. The cooked onions are great with the bratwurst. I may add a little brown sugar to balance out the onions (beer can sometimes become bitter when cooked). Then I will finish the bratwurst on the grill or in a cast iron skillet.
There has been a new trend growing in the home kitchen, and that’s sous vide cooking (I’ll be discussing this at length in other posts). I love my sous vide machine and cooking sausage in it is absolutely amazing. Instead of simmering your bratwurst, sous vide them. Seriously. Set your sous vide machine to 160 degrees F. Place the bratwurst in a gallon size ziploc baggie and cooking them for about an hour. Pull them out of the water and finish them however you’d like. I freeze my sausages and then put them in vacuum sealed bags. When I want bratwurst, I just toss them in my sous vide machine frozen. This is great for those nights for when I want something easy to cook.
Now to the potato salad. My first experience of German potato salad was at a Volkswagen enthusiast event in Helen, GA. If you don’t know what Helen, GA is, it’s a German themed tourist trap in North Georgia. It’s a neat place if you’re driving through. The landscape is beautiful, just don’t get sucked into the touristy stuff. There are a few decent restaurants in Helen and one of them had German potato salad. Ever since I had German potato salad in Helen, I’ve been on a quest for the perfect clone recipe. I think this recipe is as close as I’ll ever get.
Brown bacon in large cast iron skillet or your favorite pan until the bacon is brown but not super crunch. You want the bacon cooked and browned, but you don't want there to be bacon rocks in your potato salad.
Remove the bacon and remove all but 2 tbsp. of the bacon fat.
Add the onion and saute the onions until translucent.
In a large mixing bowl, add the vinegar, water, suger, salt, and black pepper.
Whisk ingredients together.
Add the onion, cooked bacon, and remaining bacon fat to the mixing bowl.
Peel the potatoes, cut in half, and then cut the halves into 1/4 inch thick pieces
Place the potatoes in a pot of cold water and bring to a simmer. Cook the potatoes until they split when pierced with a knife or fork. You don't want these potato chunks to be mushy. You want firm potatoes.
Drain the potatoes and add the potatoes to the large mixing bowl.
Carefully mix the potatoes. You don't want to mash them. I like to stir, then let the salad sit for a minute, then mix again. I'll repeat this process several times. As the potatoes release some starch that is picked up by the dressing, the dressing will thicken and coat the potatoes more evenly.
Serve hot or cold. I prefer mine on the warm side.
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