Evolution of the Barbecue
June 16, 2008
I think that every family has its version of a barbecue. Growing up, the elements of my family’s standard barbecue included potato and pasta salads from Byerly’s, golden cobs of buttered corn, and, if we were really lucky, a trip to Dairy Queen at the end of the night. But the clear star of the show was the giant platter of grilled meats, charred from the grill: burgers, chicken breasts (during my sister’s and my red meat strike that regrettably lasted throughout much of our teens), and, sometimes, brats. The most homesick I ever was during college was at the end of my freshman year in late May, when I called home and learned that my family was grilling. Without me. I could practically smell the grill’s smoke and hear my family’s laughter (mingling, most likely, with the sounds of a Twins game playing in the background). And I could just taste the brats.
With Kevin, my version of the barbecue has evolved to include some elements of his family’s barbecues (skirt steaks, for one) and to incorporate some new ones of our own. These usually include attempts at healthing things up: adding more vegetables, swapping turkey for ground beef in our burgers, opting for whole wheat buns. I suppose that’s where these brats come in. You see, they’re chicken brats. I can only hope that an admission of this magnitude will not prompt my family to disown me.
(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)
When it comes to healthing up barbecues, though, I firmly believe that one shouldn’t go too far. Chicken brats are fine and all, but you should really still boil them in a frothy pot of beer and heap a tangle of grilled onions on top. So that’s exactly what we did on Friday night, which was the kind of summer evening that begged for a barbecue. Stay tuned this week to hear about the side dish and dessert that rounded out our very Kristin-and-Kevin-style barbecue. Along with these brats, I think they’ll become staples.
Beer-Boiled Chicken Brats
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large sweet onion (such as Vidalia), sliced
4 chicken bratwursts
4 to 5 cups beer
4 hot dog rolls
Heat the butter a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add about 1/3 of the sliced onion and cook for several minutes. Meanwhile, pierce the sausages with the tip of a sharp knife (several times per sausage). Add the sausages to the Dutch oven and pour the beer over them. (The beer should cover the sausages.) Bring the beer to a gentle boil and reduce the heat. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the sausages are cooked through. Drain the sausages, discarding the beer and onions.
Prepare a grill. Grill the sausages and the remaining onions until both are browned. Serve with toasted hot dog buns and mustard.