Beer-Braised Brats

img_3136-1

I almost always have beer in my fridge, but not for the reason you might think. Since moving in and hosting a few parties, friends have brought beer. I don’t drink much beer, so the cases have stacked up.

What is a guy to do with all that beer?

Host more parties? Play myself in beer pong? Drink myself into a constant state of stupor?

I defrosted a pack of brats for dinner and decided to use up some of that beer. Typically, I have either grilled sausage or pan fried it. With both of those methods, I never really know if the sausage is done cooking. A few times I have had to return the encased meat to the flame or pan to cook just a bit longer. But there’s a better solution than rolling the “you may get food poisoning” dice.

Start the brats or sausages in half a bottle of beer in a sauce pan. The fluids should cover the links. It’s your choice what you do with the rest of the bottle. Set the heat to medium-low and start the braising process. Starting them in fluid ensures they cook from the inside out. Grilling or frying on the stove cooks the exterior first and eventually the inside.

I simmered mine for about 20 minutes before transferring to my hot cast iron skillet to get some crusty exterior. My girlfriend sliced onion and mushrooms and we cooked those to top the brat.

99 bottles of beer on the wall. 99 bottles of beer. Take one down, pour it in a sauce pan, 98 bottles of beer…

Cheap, fast & marginally healthy dinner

IMG_5395.JPG

I made pasta sauce Sunday afternoon. It was by no means remarkable. It took about 45 minutes to cook. I started with diced onion, garlic, baby Bella mushrooms and a two cans of crushed tomatoes. Despite all that work, it essentially tasted like a pop-top jar of sauce.

Commuting into the city necessitates making meals ahead on the weekend. Whether that means a soup, sauce, or a bunch of grilled or cooked chicken, any advance cooking sets you up for having healthy meals during the week.

Tonight, I stopped at the grocery after getting off the train. While sprinting down the aisles in my post-work famine/rage, I grabbed one hot Italian sausage link from the butcher, fresh spinach and fruit.

I sliced the sausage link into half-inch pieces to expedite the cooking process. I heated a small skillet with a teaspoon of olive oil. Then add the sliced sausage into the hot pot. That took about six minutes to cook. I then washed and ripped up a handful of spinach. After removing the sausage from the pan, add the spinach to sauté quickly with salt and fresh cracked pepper. I added the leftover pasta with sauce to the pan. Once that was warm, I added in the crispy and spicy sausage.

You could also add grilled or seared chicken breast. Or if you are really fancy, steak. If you are vegetarian and somehow are lost on this blog, you could add in a mix of frozen or fresh veggies like peppers and sliced onion to bulk up and freshen the dish.

The meal with sausage, spinach and pasta cost about $4.

It won’t win any awards, but it will satisfy your hunger on a Wednesday night.
IMG_5396.JPG

West Loop’s New Sausage Fest: TÊTE Charcuterie

VEGETARIANS BEWARE!

Chicago’s West Loop is overrun with meat. It is a sausage fest. They have meats you’ve never heard of like pig cheek and chicken hearts.

My experience with the French technique was limited to a reference by Schmidt in New Girl and sampling sliced offerings at my company’s holiday party. I got an invitation from Chicago Food Bloggers to check out TÊTE Charcuterie (1114 W Randolph St.) before they opened to the public on 7 April (as the French would write it). There are few things I love more than free food. My previous perception of charcuterie was that it is glorified lunch meat. Further research showed that the technique was originally a utilitarian method to preserving meats prior to refrigeration. It focuses on prepared meat products, like bacon, ham, sausage, terrinesgalantinespâtés, and confit. Plus mots que je ne connais pas.

1114 W Randolph St, tete charcuterie, west loop, chicago, chicago food bloggers, food, food bloggers

Charcuterie reminds me that I’m at the top of the food chain.

We were greeted and invited to head to the bar. The welcome/tasting would begin shortly. Looking around the warm digs, I spotted the wooden beams that seem to be a focal point of every new bar/restaurant and the old-school light bulbs with the visible filament. Seated at the bar, the bartender offered a drink menu. You can always pick out the fellow food bloggers because they have their phone or camera glued to one of their hands. I always find it comforting seeing that I’m not the only one who photographs my food.
1114 W Randolph St, tete charcuterie, west loop, chicago, chicago food bloggers, food, food bloggers
The chefs prepared a few dishes and let us shoot gratuitous close-ups before the dish went to its buyer.
1114 W Randolph St, tete charcuterie, west loop, chicago, chicago food bloggers, food, food bloggers. salad, chef
About 30 minutes after arriving the managing partner got up to welcome everyone and give a brief overview of the three-year journey to make this restaurant a reality. The idea was born out of travels in France for two of the chefs. He thanked everyone for their support and announced that some food would be coming out shortly and the bar was open. Those three words are arguably some of the best in any language. Thankfully, we were standing to the side and avoided the stampede to the bar manned by two bartenders. Their drink list had six custom cocktails.
1114 W Randolph St, tete charcuterie, west loop, chicago, chicago food bloggers, food, food bloggers, drinks, alcohol, bar, cocktails
I started with the Two-Tree Days and my date opted for Baden-Baden. The bartenders were swamped with a deluge of drink orders. Once I got mine, I sipped the bourbon-based libation and nodded in approval. I sipped the Baden-Baden and puckered at its tartness. Watching the bartenders try to churn out the drink orders in the foreground was a contrasting juxtaposition of the chef in the background intensely focused on slicing a terrine.
1114 W Randolph St, tete charcuterie, west loop, chicago, chicago food bloggers, food, food bloggers, drinks, alcohol, bar, cocktails
After the drinks were flowing, waiters came out with some samples of the meats. It was too loud to hear what each offering was. All of them were tasty; many being new combinations of meats and nuts. With each visit from our waiter, we tried placing his accent. He sound like he was from Europe, but which country? After the second visit, we asked for hints after he declined being from Russia or any of the Baltic countries. Turns out Carlos was from Mexico.
Toward the end of the night we made some new friends and shared dating stories. The highlight being one of the girls meeting a man at Benchmark in Old Town for a second date only to discover him fondling another woman. At 8PM. There was no mention of a third date.

We closed the night out by sobering up at City Winery after the festivities died down at Tete.