Oktoberfest usually means smothered red cabbage and potato pancakes, and some kind of favorite German meat—Wienerschnitzle, Sauerbraten, Hassenpfeiffer, or Roasted Pork Shanks. But my personal favorite all these years has been pan-seared bratwursts in beer. Along with a good, high-quality, authentic, imported sauerkraut, even non-Germans will end up being “Germans for the season” when this dish is served and this celebration is observed.
4 tablespoons salted butter
1 cup finely diced yellow onions
8 raw (or smoked and fully-cooked) German bratwursts
1 bottle dark German beer
German dipping mustard
First, take a heavy, non-stick aluminum or cast iron skillet and melt down the butter to sizzling.
Then drop in the cup of diced yellow onions and slowly sauté them—stirring almost constantly—until they, first, clear and, secondly, turn a silky golden brown (a process called “caramelization”.)
At that point, gently place the “brats” into the skillet side by side and set the cover securely on top.
Then over medium heat, agitate the skillet to move the seasonings and the brats backwards and forwards, rendering over time a rich toasty coating on the brats.
If Using Smoked Brats:
- Brown the butter in the skillet, set in the brats, and roll them back and forth so that every side of the wursts displays the sear marks.
- When the marks are uniform and the brats are “toasty brown” all over, remove them from the skillet, place them on an ovenproof platter, cover them lightly with heavy duty aluminum foil, and allow them to remain in a warming oven (200 degrees) until you’re ready to serve them.
- When the bratwurst skins begin to show signs of “cracking or splitting,” pour in about half the bottle of German beer, jostle the sausages a tad, cover the skillet tightly, and allow them to poach in the beer broth until they each turn a rich “roasty brown.”
If Using Raw Brat Sausages:
- Brown the butter in the skillet, set in the brats, poke them several times with a dinner fork, and roll them back and forth so that every side of the wursts displays the sear marks.
- When the marks are uniform and the brats take on a “toasty brown” color all over, take the skillet, cover it tightly with heavy duty aluminum foil to keep the moisture in, slide the skillet into a 350-degree oven, and bake the sausages until they begin to show signs of “cracking or splitting.”
- At that point, it’s time to pour in about half to three-fourths bottle of the German beer, jostle the sausages a bit, re-cover the skillet tightly, and allow them to poach in the beer broth until they each turn a rich “roasty brown.”
Finally, when you’re ready to eat, take a heated dinner plate, place a couple of spoonfuls of sauerkraut and two or three warm potato pancakes in the center, position two pan-roasted brats on the plate, and serve the meal piping hot. Welcome to the official opening of Oktoberfest.
Oh, yeah—don’t forget the German mustard for dipping the brats!
Das ist gut, ja! Wunderbar!