Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Oostburger - Brat Days Part 1 - Food

Aren't food festivals fun?  The wafting aroma of cooking food, smoke dancing in the late afternoon sunlight, and the sizzling of grills fill the air.  

Alexis and I had the great pleasure of attending Brat Days in beautiful Sheboygan, Wisconsin a few weeks ago courtesy of Johnsonville.  The folks at Johnsonville, the Sheboygan Jaycees, and the people of Sheboygan know how to throw a great party food festival.

One of the things we found at Brat Days is the Oostburger.  It is a simple, delicious, and gluttonous behemoth of a sandwich composed of a Sheyboygan hard roll, a burger, and a couple of brats.  It is named after the village of Oostburg, just a bit south of Sheyboygan.  My version only uses one brat per Oostburger.

The Oostburger

  • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • salt to taste
  • 4 Johnsonville Original Bratwursts
  • 4 slices Wisconsin cheddar cheese
  • 4 Sheboygan hard rolls*
  1. Preheat a grill with two heat zones, one medium-low heat and one medium-high*. 
  2. Mix together the beef, salt, pepper, and garlic.  Form into four 6 ounce burger patties about 1/2" thick.  
  3. Grill the brats on the medium-low side for 15-20 minutes, turning often, until cooked through and browned.  Keep the grill lid closed when not turning the brats.
  4. Put the burgers on the medium-high side after the brats have been on for 10 minutes.  Grill until the burgers reach an internal temp of 160f, about 5 minutes per side. 
  5. When you flip the burgers after the first 5 minutes, top each with a slice of cheddar cheese.
  6. Remove brats and burgers from the grill.  Toast the inside of the buns.
  7. Place the burgers on buns.  Slice the brats in half lengthwise and place on top of the burgers.
  • Sheboygan hard rolls are Semmel rolls.  We tried making them twice and failed.  Too crunchy and too dense.  I read that Semmel rolls are similar to Kaiser rolls so I just bought some.  We'll keep working on a good Sheboygan hard roll recipe.  If anyone has some good tips for that, let me know.
  • Two zone fire.  There's a couple of ways to do that.  For gas grills, you can just adjust your burners to different temps.  For charcoal grills, I preheat a whole chimney of coals.  Place 2/3rds on one half of the grill's charcoal tray and 1/3rd on the other half.   For a kamado grill, I cook the brats at first, then raise the temps to cook the burgers.  
  • Toppings.    Not much at all.  You already have a ton of flavor in this burger.  Most of the Oostburgers I saw only had a some spicy brown mustard.  But if you want to add to it, knock yourself out! 

One of our failed attempts at a Sheboygan hard roll.
It was hard, for sure.  A work in progress.

2012 Brat Days - The Food
The crowds at Brat Days can reach upwards of 30,000 people so how do you feed them all?  The bulk of the work falls on Mike Schavee and a half dozen volunteer cooks.  Yeah, just 5 or 6 people.   Mike has been the Grill Master of Brat Days for the past 13 years.  

The cook team prepping more food for the throngs.  These guys were always on top of demand.

Refueling the coal with Grove Charcoal.  No relation.  

The grills and cooks work non-stop.  

Instead of turning individual brats and burgers, the crew uses an empty grate to flip an entire grate at a time.
Very efficient.  It reminded me of flipping a whole pig on a pig cooker.  

Mike temp checking brats.  With his years of experience, he KNOWS when they are done by sight and feel.  But  cooking for the public dictates following careful food safety practices.

Here are some of the bratxotic foods we enjoyed during our weekend in Sheboygan.  

bratxotic - adjective - of foreign or unusual character for a bratwurst, of uniquely new or experimental nature.  Country Town of origin:  Sheboygan, WI.  

Local vendors and community organizations vended their spins on bratxotic dishes and it really shows how flexible an ingredient the bratwurst can be.   All proceeds for this entire event benefit the Sheboygan Jaycees, an outstanding civic organization.

Brat eggrolls - the brat was cooked and finely diced.  Alexis had her doubts on this one but we both loved how it turned out.

Brat taco - exceptional taste! 

Brat gyro - spectacular with the tzatziki.

Brat chimichanga!  
Not a bratwurst, but you can't turn down a fried onion blossom at a festival, can you?
The food alone was worth the trip but there is so much more to share coming up in the next few days.   

Have you ever been to a food festival?  What was your favorite part?

[Standard Disclaimer]  Johnsonville is one of the key partners of this blog and sponsored our trip to Brat Days.  But there are no subliminal messages about bratwursts in this post.  stsruwtarb yub og.  surlaw eht ma i.  stsruwtarb yub og.