Eat ‘Em Up: ‘Wurst to First Mark and Erik, Erik Pollom and Mark Crouser October 1, 2014 Eat 'em Up, Features Game Weeks on The Salute If there is a seasonal celebration or holiday that goes with football better than any other, it would have to be Oktoberfest. Thanksgiving is a worthy challenger, sure, but when’s the last time you saw a tailgate party with cranberry sauce and stuffing? A turkey fry is about as close as you’ll get. Every year I try to identify one week for a ‘Fest tailgate. Oktoberfest technically ends when October starts, but last week we had breakfast on the menu, so I’m calling this weekend close enough. It also works well because coming up with food themed for Texas Tech is pretty much impossible. Lubbock cuisine? What goes well with dirt, oil drills, and geographic isolation that leads even folks from Manhattan to refer to Lubbock as “out there?” Coming up with Oktoberfest foods that can be prepared in a parking lot cooking environment is easy. You’re no doubt thinking it’s as simple as dropping some brats on the grill and topping them off with sauerkraut and hot mustard, and it can be – but there are some extras that will make it amazing. The foundation of this meal is, of course, sausages. The Sheboygan-style bratwurst that most people are used to is the most popular option, and for a good reason. These cases of coarsely-ground heaven just taste like football season. It’s worth your time, though, to expand your selection to include some other varieties that may not be as familiar. Find a good butcher shop or supermarket meat counter and see what they have. Adding some knackwurst, or a true German-style white bratwurst adds some good variety. Find some weisswurst and call you’ll have a Charlie Weis joke right there on your plate. Some grocery stores have their own sausages with additions like cheese or jalapenos. Get a little of everything that sounds good, and be sure to ask them what they recommend. If you’re in the Kansas City area you may have heard of a place called The Local Pig. It’s a butcher shop that does all kinds of great stuff with locally-sourced meat, including making their own sausage. Why do I bring it up? Recently The Local Pig teamed up with Manhattan’s Tallgrass Brewing Company to make some beer brats that I’ve been dying to try. I hear they can be found in Hen House Markets, so if you’re anywhere near one I highly recommend picking some up. Here’s hoping they’re on the menu when Tallgrass Taphouse opens on Poyntz later this year. One thing to remember when cooking sausages is that you don’t want to let your grill get too hot. It should take about half an hour to finish them. When I was a tailgate rookie, I had a little bitty portable grill that kept the coals right next to the cooking surface. The brats would heat up rapidly and blow up at the ends. The result was a sausage that was dried out on the inside and charred on the outside. If your grill is a little shallow, a ring of coals around the outside edge should provide enough heat while sparing the sausages from becoming firecrackers. Once they start to split, they’re usually done. Now that the grill is loaded with links, it’s time to break out some side items that almost steal their thunder. I’ve seen it happen. First is beer cheese soup. It’s the more savory, smoother, milder cousin to nacho cheese sauce and it complements grilled sausages better than a windbreaker comp lements Nike Cortez. Here’s the recipe I use, but I modify it a little by substituting some smoked swiss for about a third of the cheddar. If you’re like me and you plan to get to the lot shortly after it opens, then I recommend making the soup in the morning and then packing it in a thermos for transporting. It doesn’t have to be piping hot to do the job, and sometimes I think it is better when it cools off a bit and thickens. You don’t want it too thin. It’s not necessarily the kind of soup you eat by itself. Instead, I like to sop it up with a couple of kinds of bread. A large round loaf of pumpernickel rye is great, because you can just tear off chunks of it and dip them in the soup. The other kind of bread that goes well brings me to my next recommendation. Pretzel bread has become really popular in the last few years, mostly as an alternative to regular hamburger buns. The first time I had the stuff I decided I had to learn how it was made. I found this recipe, made a batch, and took it to a barbecue. Ten minutes after slicing it and setting it out, I had to hide half the batch so that the people who were busy at the smoker would have a chance at some. It flat-out disappeared. You can make it into round loaves that work well as small bread bowls for cheese soup, but what I like to do with pretzel bread is make it into loaves about as big around as a hot dog bun. Then you have two outstanding options for what to do with it next. First, you can slice them and use them as buns for your sausages. A second option that I highly recommend is inspired by something they make at The Flying Saucer in Kansas City called the “saucer bratzel.” Cut the pretzel bread into small slices. Then, take a brat when it’s hot off of the grill, cut it into medallions, setting one on each slice of bread. Finally, lay a square of thickly-sliced Swiss cheese on top, and watch it melt into tailgate hors d’oeuvres nirvana. A little hot mustard on top doesn’t hurt either. If you’re not into the idea of making your own pretzel bread, some grocery stores sell it. I know the Hy-Vee near me makes some in their bakery, and it’s really good. Sausages, beer cheese soup, bratzel bites… this is really shaping up. Have some sauerkraut on hand, and maybe whip up some German potato salad, and you’re set. Well, there is one more thing… Roll Out the Barrel Choosing the right beer to go with the above-mentioned foods couldn’t be any easier. Most halfway decent stores right now will have several varieties of Oktoberfest on the shelves. Most of them are pretty good. A few weeks ago we mentioned Boulevard’s Bob’s ’47, and it remains a solid choice. Others include Sam Adams, Left Hand, Sierra Nevada, Leinenkugel’s and Schlafly. Free State Brewing Company makes a good ‘fest, but I wouldn’t be caught dead with Lawrence beer at a tailgate. If you want to get some actual German beer, Paulaner, Spaten, Hacker-Pschorr, Beck’s, Weihenstephaner, and Hofbräu are among the varieties you’ll typically find around here. None of them are in cans, so don’t forget your stein-sized plastic stadium cup. And, of course, if you want canned Tallgrass Beer, they don’t have an Oktoberfest in production, but you can’t go wrong with a Pub Ale. I was already excited for Saturday’s game, but now that I’ve written this, I’m almost as excited to fire up the coals. Hopefully you found some suggestions in here that you can use. If you do, let us know! As always, we’ll see you on the lot! Prost!