I like sausage as much as the next guy, or maybe I don’t, because I’ve never been a big bratwurst fan. I think it’s because I’m wary of eating huge portions of fatty meat in one sitting. I like sausage occasionally, and in smaller quantities – sprinkled on a pizza, say, or in a taco or omelette – rather than as a bulky inflated hot dog. I do love biscuits with sausage gravy, but a biscuit with a big sausage patty is usually just about all that I can handle.
Still, when I met my wife over at the Cary Whole Foods for lunch one day recently, I was drawn to the Bavarian Brathaus truck parked outside. They were offering homemade bratwurst on a pretzel roll with mustard and sauerkraut for just $5. They also had goulash and potato salad for sale, but I figured (correctly) that the sandwich alone would be enough to fill me up, making for a cheap lunch.
The good news was that the sausage itself was not fatty at all; in fact it was surprisingly light. It reminded me somewhat of a chicken or a turkey sausage, and I wish now that I had inquired about the types of meat(s) in it. The bad news was that the overall experience was a bit lifeless. The meat was remarkably mild and flavorless, and the bun was fresh but lacked some essential pretzel-ness. The sauerkraut was similarly dull; really the only thing that brought flavor to the sandwich was the zingy horseradish-mustard (a flavor that I don’t particularly care for). I don’t know how they do bratwurst in Germany, and this one wasn’t bad, but it was a little disappointing. About 2/3 of the way through the sandwich, I removed the sausage and substituted some of my wife’s peppery chicken (from the Whole Foods hot bar). Not being a huge sausage guy, it was more satisfying that way.
When I was growing up, every weekend my dad would make breakfast. The repertoire was limited but satisfying: pancakes, waffles, French toast (occasionally), or biscuits. I recall liking all of them (as I still do) and a cooked breakfast always feels like a decadent affair after a week’s worth of cheerios-and-milk, granola and yogurt, or toast with cream cheese and honey. So, with a bottle of creamy buttermilk in the refrigerator, I decided it was time to work on my biscuit craft. This weekend, to start with, I pulled out “The Joy of Cooking”, because the recipe was guaranteed not just to be there, but to be simple as well. And it was certainly easy. I decided to make monstrous, restaurant-size versions, and within thirty minutes I had these piping hot fluffy biscuits (pictured above) on the table. To go along with them, I whipped up a simple sausage gravy (cook meat, add flour to create a roux, add milk or cream, cook until thick, season). They were delicious with the gravy or with some honey, but I have to admit, a hot biscuit with butter and a little jam can be deeply satisfying. In fact, that was the best of all – just like dad used to make.
The recipe follows:
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
5 tbsp butter
2/3 – 3/4 cup buttermilk
Mix dry ingredients. Cut in butter. Add buttermilk and stir until dough just holds together. Transfer to a floured surface, gather dough, and flatten to desired thickness. Cut out circles (I used a glass). Bake at 450°F for 10-12 minutes. Cool on wire rack.
Note: Keep the fatty ingredients cold and don’t work the dough too much. You can brush the tops with milk, cream, or melted butter prior to baking for a nice finish. I’m looking forward to experimenting with these in the future, playing with the recipe to adjust the sugar or salt or to incorporate lard, for example.