Thursday, July 22, 2010

Grilled Sheboygan Brats

You would imagine that while visiting the bratwurst capital of world - Sheboygan, Wisconsin - that actually finding brats would be as easy as stumbling around whilst inebriated on Milwaukee's Beast Ice beer, however it wasn't *that* easy, as I found out yesterday. We had just finished up a wonderful overnight family get-away at the Blue Harbor Resort, but before we left town I was bound and determined to bring home some "real deal" brats.

So here's how it went down...
I started off by cruising up and down some of the main streets downtown and around the harbor area. Didn't see much except a very quaint, historic, lakeside harbor town and Larry's Hi-Lo Bakery on 8th street. So I resorted to Google in an attempt to find the best brats in Sheboygan and I wasn't going home without them. After a few red herring links from my search results, I decided I would try to go to the Sheboygan Bratwurst Company. GPS got me to the address listed, but it was a school bus repair facility instead. Looking up more Google links, I saw that someone on highly recommended Miesfeld's Meat Market, put the address in the ol' Tom-Tom, but when we got there it was a Korean grocery store. WTF?! So I call them on the phone and spoke to a very nice lady who told me where they were currently located, you betcha. We're in business now! On my way for the third try and I did ultimately find success.

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I strolled right on up to the meat counter and asked for 8 brats.

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They make and sell over a dozen varieties of brats as well as a bunch of other freshly made sausages:

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Now, I did feel like I had just gone through a bit of a goose chase over the past hour trying to get me some brats and drove a few miles out of my way to get to this place. However, I was not as despondent as Neil Page and I had a nice little chat with the cashier whose mannerism and voice accent was spot on for Edie McClurg, most notably in this clip:

(NSFW language and LOL warning)

With brats, hard buns and horseradish mustard in the bag - mission was complete and back on the road for the 133 mile drive back home to McHenry. By the time we got home, I decided to save the brat grilling for the next day instead. Today's menu is super simple - brats and corn on the cob. I've grilled a lot of brats and sausages in my lifetime and I've almost always pre-cooked them by boiling them before finishing them on the grill. This time however my instructions were to place them on the grill, no boiling, no cooking in beer, just grill them.

So that's exactly what I did, no arguments here:

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I will tell you that they took longer than 7-8 minutes to become fully cooked. These aren't pre-cooked brats, they are made with raw pork and beef. I cook hamburgers longer than 7 minutes, so I was in no mood for rare brats. Total cooking time was about 20 minutes on the lowest burner heat my gas grill is capable of. During the cooking, I prepared some yummy sauteed onions just to point of light caramelization:

And here's the finished product accompanied by horseradish mustard and genuine Larry's Hi-Lo Bakery Brat Buns:

Verdict? Best brats I've ever had, you betcha! ;)

Guten Appetit.

~ Johnny

Oh, by the way, don't burn da brats, try your hand at flippin' dem:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Fried Mozzarella Sticks

Yee-haw. First post on my newly established blog. Here goes...

Okay, I freely admit it. I'm a sucker for mozzarella stick appetizers. Pretty far from haute cuisine I know, but deep fried cheese of any type = bliss. Problem is that most joints only serve you a measly 5 sticks1 and I'm always left wanting more - "Oh excuse me waiter, err... server, err... Chad, Ashleigh or whatever your name is, I changed my mind. 86 the lasagna and please put me down for 4 more orders of mozza sticks instead." At least that what I want to say. Today, I addressed this frustration directly. I made a phenomenal mozzarella stick recipe in my home kitchen.

Here's how it went down, but first here's a pic of the finished product:

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Can't you hear the sound of the full church choir singing a triple forte major chord in the background? Now, believe me I've baked dozens, if not hundreds, of store bought frozen mozza sticks2, mostly between the hours of 1:00 - 4:00 am. And yeah, they do the job most of the time. However, today I wanted the real deal and had nothing but time on my hands.

Since I do need at least a starter recipe for most new stuff I cook, I found recipes for both the mozza sticks and a very respectable marinara sauce.

Marinara Sauce recipe here:

Mozzarella Sticks recipe here:

How fortuitous for me that I had most of the necessary ingredients and only had to make a couple of minor and reasonable substitutions.

First, the marinara sauce. The recipe produces a lot of sauce, so I will portion and freeze whatever remains. I've found that tomato-based sauces will freeze just fine for about a month or two. Beyond that is quite variable. On hand, I had Dei Fratelli crushed tomatoes and Escalon 6-in-1 ground tomatoes - both 28 oz cans. I will likely do a future blog post devoted to various brands of canned tomatoes. Go ahead, laugh it up fuzzball. For dishes that are mostly tomatoes, it absolutely matters and you will thank me for learnin' you something about what to buy when you have a choice.

Now it's time to prep the cheese sticks. I had a nice sized block of Caputo brand whole milk mozzarella in the fridge from Joe Caputo and Sons. Wasn't sure about the Italian bread crumbs, but score - had some in cupboard. Flour - check. Corn starch - check. Garlic salt - almost. Garlic powder and added a pinch of kosher salt to make up the difference. Eggs - check. Deep fryer - check. Vegetable oil - check.

Are you ready, Steve? Uh-huh.
Andy? Yeah! Mick? OK.
Well alright, fellas, let's go!
And it turned into a fried cheese blitz...

All prepped and ready to rock:

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I read a comment that suggested to freeze the mozza before dredging, so I did. They weren't frozen solid, but they were definitely frosty:

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I also followed the suggestion to double bread them, else the cheese might escape during cooking:

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First batch of 4 ready to drop:

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About 40 seconds later:

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An amuse-bouche portion. Marinara topped with a sprinkle of parmesan:

Alright, they look pretty good, but how did they taste? Bottom line: best I've ever had - period. Maybe it was the awesome cheese. Perhaps it was the top shelf Escalon tomatoes in the marinara or maybe the 1st use veggie oil in the fryer. Probably all of the above.

What would I do differently next time? I'd use fresh chopped parsley instead of dried flakes and fresh minced garlic instead of prepared garlic from jar (I normally always have fresh garlic on hand, but do keep a jar in the fridge for just such an occasion). I would probably use more egg in the breading mixture and cut the water to just a splash rather than a 1/4 cup.

I had about 7 sticks left over and so I decided to bread them up and then toss 'em back into the freezer for a later date. I'll be interested to see how they'll cook up straight from freezer to fryer.

Thanks for reading and buon appetito!

~ Johnny


1. 5 sticks?! Who in the hell ever thought this was a good quantity? I will venture to say that the majority of tables are deuces, 3's and 4's. How is 5 easily divisible? It's not. If it's a deuce, then you both happily eat 2 sticks each then there's the last one... Offer it up to your partner? Split it in half? Say you don't want it with a tone that says otherwise? Odd numbers of any appetizer is just a bad idea. Put 6 or 8 of them on the damn plate! Better yet, make it an even dozen.

2. Frozen varieties: Farm Rich Cheese Sticks are some of the better ones out there and I would not hesitate to recommend these. On the flip side, I've suffered through TGI Friday's frozen mozzarella sticks. Here's a brief review that I mostly agree with. Also, someone took the time to blog about how crappy these cheese sticks were.

Welcome - First Post!

So, I've been randomly posting photos of my creations with brief descriptions up on Facebook for the past little while, but I figured I would be better off with a blog instead. Thanks for stopping by and I'll try to keep things fresh, just like all of my recipe ingredients. ;)

Buon Appetito.

~ Johnny