The brat stop

It's been a busy week. Apart from trying to survive near monsoon conditions rolling through Chicago, I made a trip up to Milwaukee with my boss. The only glimmer of hope I had for a long day on the road was the possibility of stopping at The Brat Stop in Kenosha on my way home. I'd never even been to Wisconsin, but everyone knows it's famous two things: cheese and bratwurst. I'm not afraid to admit that I'm a fan of all types of sausage - anything from hot dogs to Toulouse sausages. As I turned off of the highway, I was pleased to find the sign out front did not disappoint.

The huge restaurant was packed with the lunch crowd- regulars or those just passing through. We both ordered the traditional pork bratwurst from the "Wurst Menu" and I chose the German potato salad and a side of sauerkraut. It was warm and had a vinegary, yet sweet sauce, and I remember a similar version from my childhood. The American potato salad was deliciously creamy and packed with fresh chives. When I slid into the booth, I had to brush an enormous amount of crumbs off of the seat which I thought was clearly the work of a small child. Not so. The warm, crusty, home made buns were extremely flaky and neither my seat or my lap escaped the mess.

Condiments are always extremely key. The waiter brought tubs of essential chopped onion and relish. Best of all, the horseradish mustard was spicy and the perfect topping. We dug in with a baseball game and day-time soaps blaring in the background. As we left to get back on the road, we made a quick tour of the little shop selling all kinds of cheeses, including the infamous cheese curds, summer sausage and Wisconsin paraphernalia. I know I'll be heading back to Milwaukee soon and it's nice to know I have a great place to stop.

Later in the week, when the weather warmed up, we put some of our own brats on the grill. This time, I served them with my Mom's cucumber salad and some sweet potato fries. I don't always make sides to go with a barbecue- especially if it's a week night. A can of baked beans, freshly sliced tomatoes, and I'm ashamed to say, mac n' cheese, are all typical accompaniments to a barbecue at my house. I just bought Ina Garten's new book and have been cooking a lot from it lately. The sweet potato fries are fantastic and are the most vibrant orange and make normal potato fries look dull.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics by Ina Garten

3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp light brown sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp cumin

Preheat the oven to 450F. Halve the sweet potatoes lengthwise and cut each half into 3-4 long spears. Place them on a sheet pan and toss with the olive oil. Spread the potatoes in one layer. Combine the brown sugar, salt, pepper and cumin and sprinkle on the potatoes. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn with a spatula. Bake for another 5 - 10 minutes until lightly browned. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot.

Summer Cucumber Salad
Serves 4

2 cucumbers, peeled and sliced thin
1 sweet onion, halved and sliced thin
1 cup of greek yogurt
1/2 cup of sour cream
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper (season to taste once combined)

A note about the cucumber salad. Some people prefer hot house cucumbers (which are all I ever knew in the UK) because the normal cucumbers we get here in the US can taste bitter, but I like their flavor. Either kind of cucumber will do.

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