Eric Akis: Make mine a brat burger

Eric Akis

If you have a craving for a meaty, juicy burger, but want to put a European twist on it, make a brat burger. It’s flavourful, and the process begins as it would for bratwurst sausages.

Bratwurst is a German-style sausage made with ground pork, or a combination of pork, veal and/or beef. What gives the sausage its unique and appealing taste is the mix of spices added to the meat, such as ginger, nutmeg and coriander or caraway.

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To make my brat burgers, I just used ground pork and after it was seasoned, instead of stuffing it into a sausage casing, I formed it into patties that I grilled.

Once they were cooked, to keep the European theme going, I topped the patties with tangy emmental cheese, then stuffed them into warm buns with braised red cabbage and homemade honey mustard mayo. It’s a deliciously filling burger that goes great with beer. You could also serve it with potato salad.

Brat Burgers with Beer Braised Red Cabbage

These juicy pork patties are flavoured as one would when making bratwurst sausages. When cooked, they are topped with tangy cheese, and then stuffed in buns with sweet- and sour-tasting red cabbage, pickles and honey mustard-flavoured mayo.

Preparation: 30 minutes
Cooking time: eight to 10 minutes
Makes: four servings

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 Tbsp Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp honey

500 grams ground pork

1 large egg beaten

1/4 cup dried bread crumbs

2 Tbsp milk

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp dried marjoram

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp ground coriander

1/8 tsp ground ginger

• vegetable oil for the grill

4 brioche or other tender hamburger buns, split and warmed

4 butter or leaf lettuce leaves

4 slices, or 1 cup grated, emmental or Swiss cheese

• beer braised red cabbage (see recipe below)

• sliced dill pickles, to taste

Combine mayonnaise, mustard and honey in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate this honey mustard mayo until needed.

Place the ground pork, egg, bread crumbs, milk, salt, pepper, marjoram, nutmeg, coriander and ginger in a bowl and mix to combine.

Moisten your hands very lightly with cold water. Divide and form pork mixture into four, 3/4-inch thick patties. Make a deep dimple in one side of each patty, which should prevent it from overly puffing during cooking.

Turn your barbecue or indoor grill to medium, medium-high heat (see Eric’s options). When hot, lightly oil the bars of the grill. Grill the patties four to five minutes per side, or until entirely cooked through and the temperature reaches 165 F in the centre of the patty when tested with an instant-read meat thermometer.

Turn heat to low, top each patty with a slice of cheese (or 1/4 cup of grated cheese) and cook one minute or so more, or until the cheese is just melted.

Spread bottom buns with a generous amount of honey mustard mayo. (Save any leftover mayo for another use, such as spreading on sandwiches.) Set a lettuce leaf on each bottom bun, and then top with a pork patty. Top each patty with some braised cabbage and sliced pickles, set on top buns and serve.

Eric’s options: If you don’t have an indoor grill or barbecue, cook the patties on the stovetop. To do so, place 2 Tbsp vegetable oil in a very large skillet set over medium to medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add the patties and cook four to five minutes per side, or until entirely cooked through. Now top with the cheese, cover and cook one minute more, until cheese is melted.

Beer Braised Red Cabbage

A small batch of sweet- and sour-tasting braised red cabbage makes a tasty topping for your brat burger.

Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 25 to 30 minutes
Makes: four servings

1 Tbsp butter

2 cups cored and thinly shredded red cabbage

1/2 cup finely diced granny smith apple (see Note)

1/4 cup finely diced onion

1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 Tbsp brown sugar

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

• pinch ground cloves

1/2 cup lager beer (see Eric’s options)

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Melt the butter in a small pot set over medium heat. Add the cabbage, apple and onion and cook until softened, about five to six minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, loosely cover (don’t completely cover as steam needs to escape) and cook 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cabbage is tender and the liquid has almost evaporated.

Note: Finely diced means to cut into small 1/8-inch cubes. You want the bits of apple small so they become tender and are easy to bite thorough.

Eric’s options: You can make the cabbage up to a day before needed, cool it to room temperature, refrigerate it, and then reheat it when needed. If you can’t have or don’t wish to use beer, replace with 1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks, including seven in his Everyone Can Cook series. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday

Celebrate food and drink in Parksville

If winter has got you down, cheer up by attending the 11th annual Parksville Uncorked beverage and culinary festival that starts Thursday and ends late Saturday.

The happenings include Thursday night’s Parksville Untapped being held at the Beach Club Resort (beachclubbc.com). During this event regional breweries will serve samples of their beer paired with delicious regional cuisine.

The festival’s signature event Swirl takes place Friday evening and will see more than 50 B.C. wineries pour samples of their wine that you can sip and enjoy with gourmet bites of food.

On Saturday night, two wine maker’s dinners will take place where multiple wine-paired courses will be served. One dinner will feature La Stella Winery (lastella.ca) wines and take place at The Beach Club Resort. The other dinner will feature Black Hills Estate Winery (blackhillswinery.com) wines and take place at Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort (tigh-na-mara.com).

For event times, ticket prices, to purchase tickets, to learn more about each event, including viewing wine maker’s dinner menus, and for event and accommodation packages, go to the Parksville Uncorked website parksvilleuncorked.com.

Proceeds from the festival will benefit Variety Children’s Charity and Rotary Club Parksville.

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