What Almanzo Liked Most

Brats with Creamy Apple Compote

Despite my strictly limited time for cooking these days, I’ve been trying to continue making decent meals, even if they end up being served at odd hours based on Nolan’s ever-changing naptimes. This particular recipe for brats with a creamy compote of apples and onions is one I first made the week before he was born, and again several weeks later because we both liked it so much.

I have to admit I only gave it a try because of Molly’s gorgeous description at Orangette. I’m not generally a fan of sweet-and-meat combinations, but that’s something I’ve been trying to get over, and this recipe is definitely a big step in the right direction: the brats are so deeply savory that they really stand up to the sweetness of the apple compote. Plus, they remind me of the wonderful food descriptions in Farmer Boy, and Almanzo’s favorite fried apples’n’onions. I served them with egg noodles to take care of any remaining creamy sauce, and would definitely add a vegetable side or a salad if I had time to squeeze it in.

Brats with Creamy Apple Compote

2 T unsalted butter
1 T olive oil
1 medium onion, quartered from root to stem, sliced
2 firm cooking apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 8 wedges (Golden Delicious and Fuji both work well)
1 bay leaf
½ tsp salt
1 C dry white wine
4 bratwursts
Vegetable oil
2/3 C heavy cream
1 T packed brown sugar
1 T apple cider vinegar

Combine butter and oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet, and warm over medium-high heat until the butter is melted. Add onion, apples, bay leaf, and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Add the wine, cover, and simmer gently until the apples are tender but still hold their shape, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the lid and briskly simmer until the wine is reduced by about half, 2-3 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the bratwurst. Heat a large cast-iron (or other heavy) skillet over medium heat, then add a small glug of oil, and the bratwurst, which should sizzle immediately. Cover the pan and cook, flipping several times, until they are evenly browned and cooked through.

While the brats are cooking, finish the apple compote: When the wine is reduced, stir in the cream, brown sugar, and cider vinegar. Briskly simmer until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Serve the compote alongside the bratwurst, with some sort of starch to sop up the goodness and some sort of vegetable to cut the richness.

Source: Gourmet, via Orangette.

Update 7/7/08: I’ve made this dish several times now, and it still doesn’t fail to disappoint. Tonight I used Fuji apples with great success, and accompanied the brats with homemade spaetzle.

Update 2/10/09: I made this for dinner again tonight with homemade spaetzle, and Nolan loved it. He had tastes of everything: finely chopped sausage, onion, apple, and noodles. I saved the apples out of the compote, and have been mushing them up in his oatmeal for the past few days. My oatmeal mix right now is a cup of water to 6T oatmeal and 2 T Bob’s Red Mill buckwheat cereal; it makes enough for about 5 quarter-cup servings, and I dish the extra into my silicone muffin pan and chill until they form congealed discs, then move them to a baggie. They reheat beautifully covered in the microwave for 25 seconds with a little water to steam in. Then I cool it down with some plain yogurt, smashed fruit, and a little maple syrup and cinnamon.

Update 5/22/10: I paired the creamy apple compote with pork chops seasoned like bratwurst, and served the lot over cheesy, creamy polenta. It was a delicious variation on the basic recipe.

Update 7/10/10: Another variation of this recipe last night. Two brats with their casings removed, crumbled and browned in a large skillet. Once the meat was removed, I added a bit of butter and olive oil and made the apple compote, while cooking 1/2 lb of rotini pasta, adding a bit of extra sugar. At the end, I returned the sausage to the skillet and added 1/2 C plain yogurt with the heat off. I immediately tossed in the pasta and served it up, to prevent the yogurt from breaking. It did separate somewhat, so it was not particularly appetizing to look at, but tasted just as good as the version made with cream.

Update 9/4/10: Yet another variation. I used chicken-apple sausage and local Wyhoochie apples which are crisp and a bit tart. After sautéing the apples and onions, I threw the sausages in on one end of the skillet along with the white wine and covered the pan to braise everything together. When the apples were tender, I got the wine reduced, turned the sausages several times to brown them up a bit, and added the cream over top of the apple end of the skillet. Although some of it seeped over to the sausages, this worked very well to save myself washing an extra pan. The chicken sausages tasted fantastic with the this compote, and I served it with homemade sauerkraut and some roasted carrots, fingerling and purple potatoes for a complete meal.

Update 12/2/10: Pork schnitzels are another good option for the apple compote. I pounded out slices of a pork sirloin tip roast and did the usual dredge in flour, egg and panko, and served with spaetzle. Vastly superior to that old chestnut, pork chops and applesauce.

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