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For better or wurst

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A week of surprises

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Three pleasant surprises this week. A new book on barbeque, discovery of a small shop that sells popcorn, and sausages at Sprouts. Reviews on the book (one of the best ever written on the subject) and the shop will come later, for now the sausage is the hot news, in particular some of the best fresh bratwurst in the valley. Eating grilled bratwurst or “Brats” as they are known, is a right of passage for any Wisconsinite, transitioning from the lowly hot dog to a fine German inspired wurst. Luckily one doesn't have to be from the Midwest to appreciate a brat grilled to perfection, the skin crisp and golden-brown, served with a heaping helping of kraut, or just a touch of mustard.

Here in Arizona bratwurst season never ends and one can enjoy the tempting treat any time they so desire. A trip to a market can yield fresh or packaged sausage, some better than others, but so far, none as good as the ones sold by Sprouts . In fact Sprouts has a whole list of sausages it sells from Andouille to Italian and all stops in between, and the prices are very reasonable. It will be tough going back to the packaged sausages after tasting the heaven on a bun that are the Sprouts brand bratwurst. Even the grill was ecstatic after crisping them up.

Cook 'em up

There are different ways to approach cooking the porky treats, and which one chosen depends on one's mood or convictions. Some purists would cringe at doing anything to the sausage before it hits the grill, others find it beneficial to add some flavor by precooking and crisping them up over hot coals. Keeping an open mind, either slow smoked or pre-cooked in a broth of beer, butter, hot sauce, and quartered red onions works well. Beer and brats were made for each other, true soul-mates, whether drinking beer while grilling brats or simmering the brats in beer before hand, it is the ultimate food pairing.

It is easy to combine the two by placing the bratwurst in a saucepan and covering them with beer – any favorite will do. Drop in a teaspoon of hot sauce, one tablespoon of butter, and one small onion peeled and quartered. Let the brew simmer until the sausage is cooked. Remove them from the pan, drop them on a grid over hot coals and watch them closely to unsure they turn that lovely golden-brown shade, flipping with tongs as necessary.

Serve 'em up

How to serve them is a personal preference. Served with sauerkraut is tough to beat, but not everyone likes the fermented cabbage. In Wisconsin there is a special bratwurst bun unknown in these parts, but a whole grain seeded bun works just fine, or skip the bun (and the carbs) and eat it au naturale with just a touch of mustard. Washing it down with an ice cold beer is almost mandatory, as long as the beer is a good one, as the wise-man said, “life is too short to drink crappy beer.”

Finally

Now's time to back away from the computer and get out in the sun, fire that grill up and toss the brats on, tend them with loving care, while staying cool with a couple cold ones and enjoying the Zen of 'Q. Lay a plate of those puppies on the table, or eat al fresco and prepare for a standing ovation from the family. And as always, remember to grill responsibly!!

Where to get bratwurst:

Sprouts Farmer's Market
13759 W. Bell Rd.
Surprise, AZ 85374

Safeway
13828 W. Waddell Rd.
Surprise, AZ 85379
Phone: 623-476-1810

Fry's
FRY'S MARKETPLACE
13982 W Waddell Rd
Surprise, AZ 85379
Phone:(623) 537-9630

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