Memo to chefs: Bratwurst needs a bun.
At the Blue Duck Tavern in downtown DC’s Park Hyatt Washington, the pork-and-chicken-stuffed pig casing is drizzled with pork jus and served in a silver casserole. On the edge of DC’s Penn Quarter, PS 7’s chef Peter Smith wraps his brat in a Parker House roll after poaching it in court bouillon.
Court bouillon? Silver casseroles? This summer, take back the brat.
Start with places that honor the link’s homeland. Bratwurst is a German sausage usually made of pork, and it’s hard to beat the one at downtown DC’s Café Mozart (1331 H St., NW; 202-347-5732). Firm and coarsely textured with just the right amount of pepper, it puts a little zing on the tongue. At Arlington’s German Gourmet (7185 Lee Hwy.; 703-534-1908), the brats are milder but come with a staff-supplied sausage tutorial that’s worth listening to.
If you’re grilling at home and want to requisition supplies from America’s brat belt, try the nutmeg-scented sausage from Milwaukee-based Usinger (usinger.com). It’s studded with fat and flavor. The six-pound minimum is roughly $23 plus shipping.
Some cooking tips: Slap your brats directly on the grill, turning them frequently for even cooking. Or parboil them beforehand—in beer and onions—and finish them over the coals. Keep the sausage warm the way they do in Wisconsin: in a barely simmering pot of “batter,” a mixture of beer, butter, and onions. The drink of choice should be beer, better known as “bratwash.”
You can approximate Wisconsin’s signature “brat bun” with a short, crusty hero roll (Café Mozart carries a good one), or you can make them yourself. Find a recipe—and a fatwa against hot-dog buns—at bratwurstpages.com.
And no hard feelings about those knife-and-fork brats. “I bet they’re delicious,” says Liz Davis, a Wisconsin native and owner of the Dairy Godmother frozen-custard shop in Alexandria. “But I would need to eat them on a bun.”
This article appeared in the July, 2008 issue of The Washingtonian.