The American Midwest is really called the heartland for a reason beyond it's geographical location. It's called the heartland because that's where so many of the ideals we take as "all American" reside in a way that other parts of the country just don't embody them.
Strong working class communities and craftsmen as well as farmers and tradesmen made the Midwest a place which created the work ethic we speak of yet today as the "Midwest work ethic" and more inclusively the "American work ethic". It was the proving grounds for major US. industries and the backbone of the industrial machine which made up much the power base for growth which has fueled the American dream after the second world war.
The Midwest was a place that saw a huge influx of immigrants from central and northern Europe during the mid to late 1800's and early 1900's. Chicago a city in the center of it all had large ethnic neighborhoods which grew up along side one another preserving in some respect the language, traditions and foods which those people brought with them from their homelands. Many of these foreign traditions and foods slowly found their way into mainstream American life. Some are represented yet today by regional holidays, regional traditions or regional foods.
German and Scandinavian immigrants were two of the largest groups to move into the area. Their influence can yet be felt all over the region. Festivals celebrating various food and cultural traditions are common and they are often well attended and woven into the area's holiday seasons.
So I have spoken before of my sojourn in the land of cheese and dairy better known as Wisconsin. I worked for about a total of one and a half years of my life at the Fireside Theater. I got to see a lot of that state while I was there and became very interested in the local food scene. I later spent time working in Milwaukee and got to know some of the German heritage foods that are popular in that town.
When we think of German traditions popular in the US. today one comes to mind immediately. Octoberfest which is celebrated in southern Germany as a form of harvest festival has found it's way into the American landscape and has become a fun beer and food festival celebrated all over the US.
So I wanted to make a dinner the other day that sort of evoked the whole Oktoberfest thing. I decided on Brats which I love. I also wanted to make sides that would be fun and a little different. So a very fall and very German thing is baked apples and onions. I wanted to ramp that up a little bit so I decided to add chopped sweet and hot cherry peppers and the result was delightful. Sweet apples baked soft with the sharp and sweet contrast of the onions and then the chopped peppers added a spicy unexpected The brats were first slowly simmered in beer then thrown in with the apples and onions to bake to a golden brown.
The other part of this menu was the side dish. Potatoes boiled and served with melted Raclette cheese which is a Swiss and French dish garnished with pickled veggies. I decided on a oven version melting the cheese over sliced boiled potatoes and crisping the top with the broiler right before serving.
It all came together. Browned and crisped skinned plump Brats piled over a mountain of roasted apples and onions spiced unexpectedly with the cherry peppers joined creamy melted Raclette on soft boiled potatoes with cold pickled veggies and onions. It was delish. Served with a German style cole slaw it was an amazing meal. Here is the Brats apples recipe more to follow. Grab a beer and enjoy ya'll!
Brats roasted with Apples, Onions and Cherry Peppers
8 Fresh Bratwursts from the Butcher
2 bottles of pilsner style beer
4 red apples cored and sliced into wedges
2 spanish onions also cut into wedges
6 to 8 sweet and hot cherry peppers roughly chopped
In a pot add the beer and 2 to 3 cups of cold water
Bring to a boil turn off the heat and cool for 15 mins
Let sit in the liquid for about 30 mins
Drain and remove the brats
Turn oven on to 350
Next on a sheet pan toss the apples the onions and the peppers with some olive oil with salt and pepper and some garlic powder
Place brats on the bed of the apples and onions and place in the oven for about 20 mins then turn the brats over and place back in the oven for another 20 mins.
Remove from the oven and platter the apple and onions then top with the brats and bring to the table.
Serve with a potato side and a salad. I did a Raclette which is a traditional Swiss dish it's so easy!
15 small boiled potatoes cooled slightly and then sliced.
1 lb Raclette cheese sliced
1 large red onion sliced and quick pickled
1 large jar of Pickled Veggies
1 small jar Cornichons french styled pickles
Place the sliced potatoes in a small oven proof dishes
cover with the cheese
place in the oven till cheese melts them place under the broiler till bubbly and slightly brown
Serve with the brats and apples.