To take bratwurst from the grill to the stovetop, you only need supplant the grill for a heavy-bottomed pan or cast-iron grill pan. Grill pans don't invest the wealth of smokiness that a barbecue does, but they create a tinge of char with a taste redolent of the grill. As with grilled brats, you need to partially cook them in liquid before applying dry heat. Stovetop cooking allows for braising and frying, adding textures and tastes you won't get from the grill. Before cooking, spear the brats a couple times with a fork to provide an outlet for steam.
Cooking brats is a two-step process: simmering them until fully cooked, and then browning them in hot fat. The flavor of the cooking liquid has little effect on the taste of the brats. Other than the small holes that let steam escape, there isn't an inlet for the cooking liquid to enter the casing. But that doesn't mean you can't benefit from cooking the brats in a flavorful liquid. On the contrary, when combined with the cooking liquid, the fat rendered from the brats during cooking makes a solid base for a sauce.
Cover the brats in water or a combination of beer and broth or wine and broth. Simmer the brats until they reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit in the center, about 5 to 10 minutes according to their thickness. Reserve the cooking liquid.
Heat a few tablespoons of butter or oil in a pan over medium heat. Dry the brats with a paper towel and saute them until the casing crisps, about 4 to 5 minutes. Combine the pan drippings with the cooking liquid and simmer it until syrupy for a simple reduction sauce.
Braising doesn't affect the tenderness of bratwurst. Ground meat, loose like hamburger or packed in a casing like bratwurst, doesn't have pieces of connective tissue large enough to make it tough to chew. Braising does, however, build a superior sauce to pair with the bratwurst.
Add a bay leaf, black peppercorns and a handful of freshly chopped herbs and set the heat to low. Return the brats to the pan and add secondary ingredients, such as tomatoes, mushrooms and peppers. Cover the pan and cook the brats until they reach 165 F, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove the brats and simmer the braising liquid until it reduces to a moderately thick sauce. Season the sauce to taste and serve it over the bratwurst.
Bratwurst mit Sauerkraut
Bratwurst and sauerkraut exemplify rustikale Gerichte, or country-style German food. As a loose preparation, variations on this classic abound, but for an authentic feel, simply choose a region of Germany and incorporate its flavors into the the dish. For example, in the Pfalz region of Eastern Germany, you might find nordhessische bratwurst and sauerkraut flavored with riesling, apples and bacon. In Bavaria, you can expect a frankische bratwurst and kraut cooked with cider vinegar, spicy mustard and shredded potatoes.
For a brat-and-sauerkraut dish made in the style of Pfalz, sear a few pounds of bratwurst in a saute pan and set them aside. Cook chopped bacon and a cup or two of sliced onions in a casserole over low heat until the bacon is fully cooked. Next, add about 1/2 cup of riesling, allspice, juniper berries, several bay leafs and black peppercorns to the casserole.
Add a couple of pounds of undrained sauerkraut and 1 large chopped apple to the casserole. Cook the sauerkraut for 30 minutes; then add the bratwurst. Cook for an additional 20 minutes and serve it with whole-grain mustard.
Currywurst is something of a culinary institution in Germany, at least of a fast food, or Schnell-Imbisse, type. And there's nothing striking about the dish: Bratwurst, ketchup and curry spices are all you need.
Saute onions and mustard seeds in vegetable oil until they brown. Next, add 1 part (1 tablespoon) of curry powder and a pinch each of anise seeds, nutmeg and white pepper. Cook the currywurst sauce over low heat and serve it over simmered and pan-seared bratwurst.