Summer is nearly upon us. I love cooking outdoors as much as anything else. The grill Hawkins got as a prize for signing up for a bank account has finally given up the ghost. Hawkins tried to cook a few steaks on it, but the thin steel legs had rusted through. We had a lot of good meals off that grill, so I feel like I have to pay my last respects to an old friend. His father has kindly provided a nice replacement, but we have yet to assemble it. It is bigger, better and a million times nicer than what we used before, so expect some great barbecue recipes in the weeks to follow.
Today’s recipe is quick and easy as well as one that works great indoors and out. Currywurst is a meal of bratwurst or smoked sausage in a spicy curry ketchup or tomato sauce. According to the folklore of Berlin, local sausage vendor Herta Heuwer experimented with her ketchup and a can of curry power one rainy afternoon out of boredom until she discovered something wonderful. Wikipedia.org claims the Heuwer invented the meal on September 4, 1949. Other legends say that a sausage stall vendor accidentally dropped curry powder into the ketchup and took a “waste-not, want-not” attitude. According to Wikipedia, German singer Herbert Gronemeyer, who appeared in one of my favorite fims- Das Boot, even sang a song about the tasty concoction.
I first had Currywurst on a visit to Clarksville, when I stopped at a small German bistro for lunch to try something different. It tasted pretty good, so I researched a few recipes. Most called for adding curry powder to ketchup, but I thought I could make it a bit more flavorful on my own.
The sauce starts with a finely chopped onion sautéed in a five-quart pan. Chop the onion well so it blends with the sauce. Add a clove of minced garlic as the onion cooks, and let everything caramelize a bit. To give it a nice tomato base, add 30 ounces of tomato sauce. To give a good ketchup flavor, I mixed in two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar, a tablespoon of white sugar, a half-teaspoon of salt, and the same amount of pepper, a half-teaspoon of paprika, and two tablespoons of chili sauce. I found I like this better than ketchup for the recipe, as the freshly mixed ingredients and chopped onions impart a better flavor than prepared ketchup. Save that for French fries.
Naturally, the recipe calls for curry powder. I used about two tablespoons, but is there a set amount? No, not really. Experiment and find the right amount of curry for you and your family. Once you found the right amount of curry to please your palette, stir the sauce well and cover to simmer for 20-30 minutes.
For this recipe, I used uncooked bratwurst. The heat-and-serve kind would work in a pinch, but the uncooked sausages allow cooks to brown the casings until crispy, or infuse them with a little extra flavor.
No matter where or how you cook your brats, poke two or three small holes along the length of each sausage to allow steam to escape to keep the sausages from splitting. If I have a grill to cook outdoors, I like to boil my brats for about ten minutes in a mixture of one bottle of beer, a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, a teaspoon of dry mustard and one-half of a coarsely chopped onion. After ten minutes, place the sausages on the grill and cook thoroughly, until the skin is browned, and the center cooked completely. You will see the meat in the center expand beyond the sides of the casing when done. If you have any doubts, cut one open to make sure the center is cooked.
Since I did not have a grill this time out, I cooked the sausages in a skillet. Brown two sides of the sausage. When the casings of the sausages begin to grow crispy, add a quarter cup of beer to the skillet and cover to steam the sausages well. Again, make sure your brats are cooked before serving. You’ll see the filling protrude from the ends. The beer not only steams the sausage, but adds a sweet and flavorful glaze.
Hawkins and I enjoyed two brats topped with the curry tomato sauce each. As a garnish, I sprinkled a bit more curry powder over the lengths smothered in sauce. Berliners serve their currywurst with French fries, though we’ve been known to use Tater Tots from time to time. The curry sauce makes a great dip for any potato product. Rolls also welcome the spicy tomato sauce.
Over the last week, I realized I served three different curries- this meal, chicken vindaloo from India and an encore of the Thai chicken in peanut-curry sauce. I am not sure which I liked better, and Hawkins seemed to enjoy them all. During “Curry Week,” Sanci tried the Thai curry, while Hawkins friend Aaron had the vindaloo for the third time around. I promise, Aaron, that next time you visit, we will cook something else for you. Try these recipes at home and let me know what your favorite is. I’ll say this, during Curry Week, a good time was had by all, and the aroma of that yellow spice powder permeates Hawkins home completely. Good eating.