It’s Memorial Day right around the corner and that means it’s time to get your grill on! For $4.96 a head.
Whether you are going to relax with your family, have a few friends over, or throw a large pool party (if you’re lucky enough to have a pool) to celebrate the unofficial beginning of summer, you are going to want to heat up your grill and pop open a cold brew.
The first thing you want to do is check your local grocery stores for sales. The week leading up to Memorial day is replete with sales on steaks, ground beef, sausages, ribs, BBQ sauce, etc. Also, if you’re shopping on Sunday, don’t be afraid to check the clearance area of your meat department. The meat there is perfectly good as long as you cook it same day or next day.
I decided to go classic Memorial Day this year: Bratwurst and Beer. Now, I don’t mind if you want to buy some pre-cooked sausages and just throw them on the grill, it’s easy. But, I’m here to tell you, cooking up raw fresh sausages over a flame will get you the most flavor, if you can cook ‘em right. Cooking fresh sausages can be problematic, however. You often get them just right on the outside but still raw in the center, or you do cook them through but they are now burnt and blackened on the outside.
I have good news, however. I have a trick that will ensure juicy, perfectly cooked sausages every time. And it only takes a minimal amount of extra effort. Plus, you get the added bonus of grilled onions to use pass as a condiment.
Now, in the interest a full disclosure, this recipe was inspired by a similar one in Cook’s Illustrated. (I mostly only changed a few things to keep it under my five dollar budget.)
The trick is to cook the raw Brats on the grill over onions in their own baking pan covered. The onions will keep them off of the direct heat and the covering them will ensure that the brats will stay juicy as they cook through. After they’ve cooked through, you simply throw the brats on an open part of the grill and flame kiss them to a prefect golden brown. (Basically, by cooking the sausages covered, you have created your own “pre-cooked” sausages with minimal fuss, but more flavor.)
I wanted to serve the Brats with a Caesar salad, but not just any Caesar Salad would do on Memorial Day. I mean, it’s warm (hopefully,) the grill is going, I have a cold beer in my hand…so, I went ahead and threw the salad on the grill too. What’s that you say? Why in the world would you grill a Caesar Salad? What reason could you possibly have for that? Well, I’ll give you three: First, the fire gives the romaine a smoky and I’ll say “meaty” flavor since I can’t think of another word. (Plus, I grilled them where I had the Brats cooking, so it very well could have been meaty. But Caesar salads aren’t vegetarian anyway (anchovies in the dressing (can I do parentheses inside of parentheses? I guess so, I just did))) Secondly, you can make awesome croutons from a baguette straight on the grill, and lastly, how impressive is it to grill a salad?
I also made a Caesar Vinaigrette to keep the dressing a little more healthy. (Although that might be ridiculous as I was also drinking a beer and eating a bratwurst, but I have to save calories somewhere, right?)
Whatever you decide to cook, I hope you have a great Memorial Day. Oh, and remember to drink responsibly. (That means, you can get drunk if you want, just, please find someone else to drive, okay?)
Bratwurst and Grilled Onions
For this recipe you will need some kind of baking pan that can go directly on the grill. If you do not have a grill pan like I do, you can buy an aluminum baking pan. They are very cheap at a store like Smart & Final. Also, you can just use a couple of pie tins, or even try to create your own “pan” out of tin foil. (The last option does work, but is difficult and imperfect.)
1 package of Bratwurst (or any other fresh sausage of your choice; 4 to 6 sausages normally in a package)
2 large onions (preferably red, but any will do)
1 teaspoon of dried thyme (or 1 Tablespoon of fresh)
salt and pepper to taste
1 package of hot dog buns
- Preheat the grill (This step is so often skipped. Always preheat your grill. You wouldn’t skip preheating your oven, would you?)
- Cut the onions in half and then in slices from pole to pole (root to tip.) Combine them in a microwave safe bowl with the thyme, salt and pepper. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 5 minutes. (This will help you get the onions nice and grilled in a shorter amount of time.)
- Transfer the onions to your baking tray. Place the sausages on top of the onions in a single layer. Cover tightly with foil and place the grill over medium high heat. Close the grill’s lid and cook for 15 minutes.
- Uncover, remove the sausages and place them directly on an open part of the grill (continue to let the onions cook in their baking tray.) Cook the sausages for 8 minutes or until a nice golden brown. Remove the sausages from the grill, and cover with tin foil until ready to serve.
- Cover the grill and let the onions continue to cook for another 5 to 10 minutes or until dark golden brown and caramelized. Serve the sausages topped with the grilled onions. Pass your favorite condiments.
Grilled Caesar Salad
1 head of romaine lettuce
1 baguette (French or sourdough)
Caesar dressing (recipe below)
Anchovies for garnish (optional)
- Chop a whole head of romaine lettuce into fourths lengthwise and place on a pre-heated grill for 5 to 10 minutes, rotating regularly.
- Slice the baguette diagonally, brush them with olive oil, and place them on the grill. Toast them for two minutes on each side so they become nice and crisp like a crouton.
- Serve the romaine lettuce topped with the croutons (toasted baguette slices,) parmesan cheese, and the optional anchovies. Pass Caesar dressing.
4 to 5 anchovies
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. mustard (preferably a deli mustard)
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, chopped
¼ cup parmesan cheese
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup white wine vinegar
- Combine the anchovies, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, lemon juice, garlic, pepper and parmesan cheese into a small food processor. Taste. (I cannot stress tasting enough here. The amounts in any salad dressing recipe are very approximate and need to be made to your taste.) This is the base of the dressing. At this point the dressing should taste like a classic Caesar dressing, except perhaps more powerful. Adjust the flavors to taste.
- Add olive oil and white wine vinegar, blend again. Adjust the flavors to taste. Serve well shaken. (This is a vinagrette and the oil will seprate out over time, so it will need to be well shaken every time before serving.)
1 package fresh Bratwurst $3.49 + honey wheat hot dog buns $2.29 + 2 red onions (@1.99 per pound) $2.29 + 1 head of Romaine lettuce $1.99 + 1 baguette $1.39 + 1 lemon $.25 + 1/4 of grated parmesan cheese (@2.99 for generic package) $.75 + anchovies $1.49 + 1/2 container of white wine vinegar (@ $1.99 for 1 bottle generic) $1.00 + 4 beers (@ 12.99 for a Samuel Adams Summer Styles Variety 12-pack) $4.33 + 1/4 relish bottle (@ $ 2.29) $.57 = $19.84
Comes to $4,96 per person!
Sorry, I only budgeted for 1 beer a person with dinner. If you want more, you’ll have to splurge.
Kitchen Basics Used
Dried Thyme, olive oil, garlic, worcestershire sauce, mustard, ketchup (as a condiment.)
By the way, you’ll have plenty of salad dressing leftover!