Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Beer Brats and so much more

Over Memorial Day weekend, I had a Barn Sale. Barn Sales are just like garage sales, except they are held in a barn. The fact that you have a barn at all means that you most likely have been able to store far too much stuff for way too long and thus are in desperate need of either a sale or a dumpster, or perhaps both. This has pushed you to decide you’re ready to open your doors for strangers to come peruse all of your stuff. Barn sales are a lot of work, and scheduling one on a holiday weekend requires some preparation beyond just putting your things on tables and assigning them a price.

It requires good food.

You must feed yourself and your brave partners-in- sale. I enjoy staying up after everyone is in bed, preparing fresh home-made food for the next day. Friday night, I was up making homemade coleslaw for the Saturday’s kielbasa. Sunday morning, I was up early to start the beer brats. To me, the term “beer brats” is a bit redundant. It’s not really a brat if the process didn’t start with beer. There are probably countless variations of the beer brat, but I’ll go ahead and share mine. Step one is introducing the brat to the beer. I prefer golden beers of various styles. Saturday’s was Full Circle. Fill a pot with beer, add lots of quartered onions, salt and generous amounts of black pepper. Garlic is always welcome too. Add your brats and bring to a boil. I boil about 10 minutes until they’re firm. At this point you’re ready for the grill. If you want, you can set these aside to grill later (for when you’re busy – like during a barn sale), even holding them with the beer & onions in the fridge for a day or two before grilling. Next, you brown them on a grill of your choice and you’re good to go. As long as you keep ketchup away from them, they’ll be perfectly delicious.

I plan to be back with more beer and food commentary, as I’m an avid cook and cherish beer’s role in the kitchen and at the dinner table. Lot’s of people are coming around to exploring the flavors available in beer. The roasted flavors and/or the caramelized sweetness of the malt, a soft sometimes fruity or tangy body and the floral, aromatic bitterness of hops are all useful and enjoyable qualities in beer.

I encourage you to think about what flavors you enjoy in your favorite beer, or in your favorite food. Try to isolate a few key flavors and think about either creating a dish with it, or imagining what you think would go well with it. Explore! Create! Consume!

Craft beer lovers and cooks have been celebrating this for years, but more and more people are joining the party these days. Even Miller brewing is talking about beer and food. Listening to Peg Leinenkugel on Michael Feldman’s, “Whaddya Know” a few weeks back, I found myself frustrated that she didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to actually talk about flavors or creating new things, instead she just pitched in a few recipes and chuckled at the cliché’s about marrying into a beer family, but at least beer and food were on the air!

Looking back, Detroit Free Press featured Michigan Beer and food a few months ago, including a Red Tulip Pork Medallion recipe from yours truly. Looking forward, the Michigan Brewers Guild is working on putting together a food and beer symposium in October with the Grand Valley Community College in Grand Rapids. There are more and more opportunities to either explore the creation or simply enjoy the presence of excellent beer and food together.

Now lets hope for many-meals before my next barn-sale!


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