I was a vegetarian for close to 7 years, but have been eating meat now for about two years. Part of me still thinks of myself as a vegetarian. When I go out to a restaurant, I still get overwhelmed knowing that I have a whole menu to choose from, instead of just one sad roasted red pepper and pesto panini or some such garbage. I order things that I’m not even sure I like, just because I can, like an overconfident child without a babysitter.
I’ve been slowly introducing meat into my life and sometimes it gets a bit crazy. For example, I never had a Reuben before. I order one, and then for the next month, that’s all I’ll eat. It’s happened this way with cheeseburgers, chicken wings, and right now, I’m on this steak kick. I had never eaten a full steak so when my boyfriend asks me what I want for our Valentine’s Day meal, I answer like I’d just been asked some dirty secret. He has to take a parental role, asking “Are you sure you want a steak? You’ve never had a steak. You may not enjoy a whole plate of meat.” He’s also speaking to the fact that the main reason I eat anything is for the accoutrements. I use buffalo wings as a vessel for blue cheese, reubens for the sauerkraut. When you get a steak, there’s no hiding that straight-up plate of murder, and you have to come to terms with the fact that you chose the pleasure of food over the suffering of a living creature. I was ready to take that plunge.
So back on track. I wanted to cook with beer last week. I started going through my cookbooks, most of which are vegan. There are plenty of vegetarian beer pairings out there, but I wanted the full, unadulterated experience, so I pulled up a recipe for beer brats.
Because of the brat’s German heritage, lots of people will suggest using a pilsner, but I suggest using a brown ale, amber, doppelbock, marzen, or maybe even a stout or porter, basically anything that isn’t hoppy. These malt-forward beers will help sweeten up the caramelized onions and enhance the flavor of the sausage.
I also decided to make a beer mustard to go with the brats. When making mustard with beer, you should go in the opposite direction as the brats, avoiding any caramel or nutty flavors. An IPA or pale ale would work well.
Mainly because it was what I had on me, and because it’s a pretty versatile beer, I used Newport Storm’s Hurricane Amber Ale for both the brats and the mustard. This balanced amber has the light malt sweetness I was looking for, as well as a mild hop kick, without either one being too distracting.
Beer-Braised Brats with Caramelized Onions
2 tsps. black/brown mustard seeds
1 tsp. caraway seeds
4 tbs. unsalted butter
3 yellow onions, sliced into rings
1 tb. brown sugar
Salt/Freshly ground black pepper
12 oz. beer
Mustard, for serving
In a spice grinder, grind the mustard seeds and caraway seeds.
Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the bratwurst and cook until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
Reduce the heat to low and add the crushed spices, onions, and brown sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened, about 40 minutes. Add the brats to the onions, pour in the beer and braise, turning once, until they are cooked through, about 30 minutes.
Serve in a roll with onions and mustard.
Hot Beer Mustard
4 tbs. yellow mustard seeds
1 tb. black/brown mustard seeds
125 mL beer
75 mL apple cider vinegar
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tb. honey
1 tb. brown sugar
¼ tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. allspice
½ tsp. salt
Grind half of the yellow mustard seeds to a fine powder. Mix the powder together with the remaining whole yellow mustard seeds and the brown/black mustard seeds. Set aside.
Mix the beer, cider vinegar, onion, garlic, honey, sugar, turmeric, allspice, and salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered for 10-15 minutes, until it reduces by half. Remove from heat and let cool (place in fridge).
Pour the mixture over the ground mustard seeds. Leave to stand, covered and unrefrigerated for 1-2 days.
Blend the mixture in a food processor, until it is creamy, but so some seeds still remain whole. If it looks too thick, add a bit more beer or vinegar. Bottle the mustard and ideally let it sit in the fridge for a couple days, but could also be used right away.