Nice midwestern girl goes rogue

Bratwurst with collards and rice

beer brats, Everyday Food style

beer brats, Everyday Food style

First, let me say that the cheapskate recipes are some of my favorites.  This is a dinner under $10 feature, and I appreciate that.

That aside, there was one thing about this recipe that tripped me up, the smoked bratwurst.  The recipe calls for either smoked bratwurst or kielbasa.  Now, I didn’t fully pay attention to that.  If I had, I would have recognized that normal bratwurst like the kind you have in the summer isn’t really anything like kielbasa.  I don’t believe I’ve ever had or seen smoked bratwurst.  So when I went to make the shopping list, I just put down “bratwurst.”  Then I went to make the recipe, and I noticed that it has you slicing the sausage to cook it.  Well, if you’re doing that with normal bratwurst, that’s just straight up weird.  The casing doesn’t really let you slice it into disks.  And, even if you could, it wouldn’t really cook that way.  Bratwurst wants to be treated as a link.  I tried to split the difference by plopping it out of the casing in about 2 tablespoon chunks to brown almost like a meatball.  Cooking those blobs with the onion was getting to be a dry mess, and I could see that it was going to burn before the sausage was actually cooked all the way through.  Then I remembered something very important…beer.  I realized that this recipe was written for smoked bratwurst and whatever that was, I didn’t have it.  I had to dance with the one I brought, so to speak.  So I dumped in a third of a can of Half Acre’s Pony.  That’s a big can, so let’s say it’s a 1/2 of a normal can of beer.

My not-so-little pony

My not-so-little pony

That was just the ticket.  The brats stopped burning and starting cooking like they’re supposed to.  I felt like a Midwestern genius.  I felt like it was the dish I was born on flat land by a big lake to save.  I got to drink the rest of the delicious beer.  The collards got some nice beer flavor.  Win and win.  To up the beer and brats flavor, I added some Dijon mustard in when I added the vinegar.  D and I devoured this dish.  It definitely pays to go rogue.

brats and collards, ready for the big time

brats and collards, ready for the big time

Everyday rogue

Pigs in a Blanket (unable to find the source recipe, but I went so far away from it, suffice it to say it was close to this one)

Ja wohl!

Ja wohl!

Pigs in a blanket, you say?  Puff pastry and cocktail weenies?  Sounds adorable.  Sounds delicious.  Sounds nothing like the picture you’re looking at.  Those are mini bratwurst baked in a pretzel.  Let me explain how I got here.

mini brats and scissors for scale...or because I forgot to get them out of the shot

mini brats and scissors for scale…or because I forgot to get them out of the shot

I love to shop at Aldi.  Aldi is a German company.  What we know as Aldi in the United States is actually one of two Aldis, Aldi Sud (where’s the umlaut on WordPress?  Don’t answer that.  I’m too lazy).  If you want to kill some time, I highly suggest reading the Wikipedia page on Aldi.  But I digress.  No doubt because Aldi is a German company, every year around October they have German stuff at Aldi.  Some of it it straight ahead: sauerkraut, mustard, usw.  Some of it is mini bratwurst.  I saw the package of mini brats and knew they were coming home with me.  But what does one do with mini brats?  Well, if one is writing a blog about Everyday Food, one tries to find a mini brat appropriate recipe.  The pigs in a blanket seemed like an obvious choice.  But puff pastry?  Enter the Auntie Ann’s pretzel-making kit.


This is was a Christmas gift that’s been languishing on top of my fridge since it was moved from the top of another fridge at our old apartment.  The trouble is, in general, I don’t do yeast.  I don’t have the time or patience for things to rise.  Judging from the expiration date on the box, it was a gift in 2011.  The only thing in it that could possibly go bad is the yeast.  I had other yeast in the fridge.  Boom.  We’re in business.  The kit comes with a recipe for pretzel dogs.  Do you see where this is going?  I did.  I was going to kill a flock of birds with this one fatty stone.  Use the mini brats, finally use the pretzel kit, and complete another recipe for this blog.

I will admit that they look hideous before they're cooked.

I will admit that they look hideous before they’re cooked.

The recipe itself was simple enough.  Auntie Ann’s had you start the hotdogs cooking by putting them in a dish of hot tap water for a few minutes.  That part was disgusting.  I don’t want to talk about what the water looked like when I was done soaking mini brats in it.  Suffice it to say, it had a sheen to it.  To make the pretzel part you make the dough, roll pieces out into strips like you were going to make pretzels (width of a finger and let’s say 8 inches long) and wrap the mini brats in the strips like a chunky little barber pole.  The kit came with a rather large packet of baking soda.  The instructions were to mix the baking soda with very hot tap water until it is nearly dissolved.  Then you dip the wrapped dogs in the mixture, dry off the excess with a paper towel and put them in a greased baking sheet.  I think that’s how pretzels get that brown crust.  You bake them in a 425 degree oven for 5 minutes, rotate the sheet 180 degrees, and bake for another 3-5 minutes.  I gave them another 5 minutes, but they were probably done after 2 or 3.  Once the dogs are out, you brush the tops with melted butter and marvel at how photogenic they are.

Add some root veggies and mustard, and you've got yourself a meal!

Add some root veggies and mustard, and you’ve got yourself a meal!

D and I had the pretzel dogs with Dijon mustard and a side of vegetables that J, our son, did not eat.  That’s his loss.  It was carrots, parsnips, and sweet potatoes roasted in olive oil with a little salt and pepper.  Definitely not something to put into your mouth and then immediately push back out with your tongue.  Just saying.

All this is to say that I did not follow the recipe in EF for this one even a little.  I’m an everyday rogue.