Ginger Beer Brats with Grilled Cilantro Lime Slaw

Friday, March 27, 2015

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Johnsonville. All content and opinions are mine.

With basketball tournaments underway, Johnsonville asked me to put my spin on the classic "Brat Crock Hot Tub," the traditional method of simmering grilled brats in beer. I've been meaning to do a lot more experimenting with crock pot recipes, so I was up for the challenge. Not to mention, I've loved bratwurst ever since living in Germany as a kid. A hot bratwurst sandwiched between warm brötchen, slathered with good mustard is hard to beat. For that reason, I wanted to do something completely different and unexpected. I turned to the islands for some flavor inspiration and came up with a fun combination that would make a great addition to any indoor tailgating party!

If you search for crock pot bratwurst and beer recipes, they all generally have the same idea. Grill or sear the sausages and then simmer them in the crock pot with beer and onions until cooked through. Sometimes sauerkraut is also added. The brats can then stay warm in the crock pot until served. Simple enough. As the brats cook, they absorb all of the flavor from the beer and whatever else is in the liquid, so I really wanted to up the ante and add some ingredients that packed more of  punch. My first decision was to veer outside of the typical beer choices, as I settled on ginger beer. You can use a non-alcoholic or alcoholic ginger beer for this recipe, or you can use a good quality ginger ale - find one made with real ginger and natural sweeteners. With ginger as the base of my flavor profile, I enhanced it with some ingredients that will be familiar if you've ever made a pot of Jamaican rice and peas. Thyme, garlic, allspice berries and a scotch bonnet pepper all simmer along with the onions and ginger beer, making a super flavorful bath for those brats.

You've gotta have some good accompaniments for brats, and instead of sauerkraut I wanted to use cabbage in a different way. A cool, tangy cilantro lime slaw was in order. At the last minute, I had an epiphany and threw the cabbage on the grill to add some smoky flavor. I finished things off with a curried mango chutney instead of the traditional mustard. Feel free to make your own or use a store bought chutney. If you're interested in making it yourself someday, I'll have my own recipe featured on my blog in the near future!

Ginger Beer Brats with Grilled Cilantro Lime Slaw

3 to 4 bottles of ginger beer or good quality ginger ale
1 large sweet onion
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced ginger
Several sprigs fresh thyme
10 allspice berries
1 scotch bonnet or habenero pepper
Grape seed oil, as needed
Kosher salt, to taste
Cracked black pepper, to taste
10 potato rolls or hot dog buns of choice
Prepared mango chutney
Cilantro lime slaw, recipe follows

For the Grilled Cilantro Lime Slaw:
1 small head red cabbage
1 bunch scallions
1/2 c. chopped cilantro
Zest and juice of 2 limes
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tbsp agave nectar or honey
1/4 c. grape seed oil, plus additional as needed for grill
Kosher salt, to taste
Cracked black pepper, to taste

Servings: 10
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Suggested Equipment: Crock pot, cast iron grill pan or outdoor grill

You'll want to start by making this flavorful "bath" for your brats in a crock pot. Layer sliced onions to cover the bottom of the pot, and throw in the thyme, allspice, garlic and ginger. Pierce the scotch bonnet pepper with a knife and throw that in too. Add a few pinches of salt and some black pepper. Use gloves when handling scotch bonnet peppers or protect your hands in some way from catching any juices. You do not want that in your eyes. Trust. Me.

Now pour in some ginger beer. Start with 2 or 3 bottles, then after you add your brats you can always add more if they aren't covered.

When your grill pan is preheated, grease the grates with grape seed oil and sear the brats on all sides for a couple minutes. They won't cook through in this step.

Add the grilled brats to the crock pot and snuggle them in. Pour in enough ginger beer so that all the brats are submerged. Set your crock pot to high for 2 hours, and allow the brats to simmer and get happy!

Meanwhile, while your grill is still nice and hot slice the cabbage into thick wedges. Leave the core intact so that it holds the cabbage together.

Lightly oil the grates and grill the cabbage until slightly wilted and charred in spots. Season with salt and pepper while it's on the grill.

After all the cabbage is grilled, you can also grill the scallions until charred. They should only take a minute or two.

Thinly slice the grilled cabbage and chop up the scallions. Toss it all into a bowl with the chopped cilantro. Season with a little bit of salt here too. 

To prepare the vinaigrette, combine the remaining oil, vinegar, lime juice, lime zest, agave, ginger and mustard. Whisk or shake vigorously until emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Add enough vinaigrette to adequately moisten the slaw, and toss to combine. Let the slaw hang out in the fridge until the brats are ready. It will wilt a little more and pickle a bit because of the acidic vinaigrette. I've found that cabbage typically requires a lot more salt than you'll think you need, so always season to taste and taste it again after it sits for a bit before serving. The smoky scent is heavenly... I am definitely going to play around with this idea again this summer.

After two hours, you can turn your crock pot to warm and let the brats sit tight until needed. Brats are cooked when an internal temperature reaches 160° F. The broth gets pretty spicy because of that pepper, but don't worry the brats themselves won't be nearly as hot.

When you're ready to serve, spoon a little mango chutney into some warm potato buns. Add a brat, some of the delicious cooked onions from the pot, and top with lots of this beautifully purple slaw. Enjoy with more ginger beer, of course!

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