Monday, July 30, 2012

4th of July

The 4th of July also happens to be my dad's birthday. That means a special effort for as many of our family as possible to get together to celebrate. This year was no different. For the last several years we have tried to meet up in the North Carolina mountains, but this year we met up in Rural Hall, NC.

When my dad and I get together we like to cook things over fire. So let's get down to it. In the days leading up to the 4th this short video caught my eye.

I'm a guy who loves to load down my hot dogs with goopy stuff like slaw or relish (never both). So the idea of creating a little more room in the bun was very exciting to me.

That was my idea. My dad found some recipes that he wanted to try. Namely: Beer Brats and Bacon-wrapped Asparagus.

First the Beer Brats.

Beer Brats & Bacon-wrapped Asparagus

Beer Brats (from

4 (12 ounce) beers
1 large onion, diced
10 bratwurst
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Lightly oil grate - Preheat grill for medium-high heat

Combine the beer and onions in a large pot, bring to a boil. Submerge the brats in the beer, add the red pepper flakes, garlic powder, salt and black pepper. Reduce heat to medium and cook another 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the brats from the beer mixture, reduce the heat to low and continue cooking the onions.

Cook the brats on the medium-high grill, turning once, 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with the onions as a topping or a side. 
My dad found these delightfully patriotic Budweiser "tall boys." (Let's forget for a moment that the King of Beers is now owned by Belgian conglomerate, InBev. Because, what's America, if not a melting pot of cultures, languages, ideas and beverages?) It was a 3 pack, so we passed one back and forth. We poured the other 2 into his dutch oven and got everything simmering on the side burner of his Weber gas grill.

Brats go into the boiling brew . . .
Coming along nicely . . .

Ooh. Look at those guys. Time to brown 'em up on the Big Green Egg. We also had regular ol' burger patties from the store as you can see here. While tasty, there's no particular recipe or technique that I'll go into here.

Finally, here are the asparagus.


Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus

10 fresh asparagus spears, trimmed
ground black pepper
5 bacon strips, halved
Toothpicks (soak in water)
Place asparagus on a sheet of waxed paper, coat with cooking spray.
Sprinkle with pepper, turn to coat. Wrap a bacon piece around each
spear, secure ends with toothpicks
Lightly oil grate, Preheat grill for medium heat
Grill, uncovered, over medium heat for 4 to 6 minutes on each side or until bacon is crisp.
Discard toothpicks

My dad had this great seafood flipper thing.

Too bad I'm a klutz. When I tried to flip the asparagus somehow I opened up the basket by mistake and asparagus went everywhere. Oh well. You can see them here next to our spiral-cut hot dogs. You can also see that we didn't cut all of them up that way in case somebody just wanted a regular dog.

The Verdict:

I would do all three of these recipes again. 

Spiral-cut dogs: I really liked the novelty of these hot dogs. Some folks commented that biting into a spiral cut hot dog lacked that same crisp, juicy experience. But I found that there was more grilled surface to caramelize and again I liked being able to get just a little more stuff in my bun.

Beer Brats: The big surprise for me was how I found myself going back for more of the beer-soaked onions. Dang, they were good. And they had just a little kick to them too. This might have been my favorite recipe of the three, but I must confess that I favor bratwurst over hot dogs most days.

Bacon-wrapped Asparagus: This was the crowd favorite for sure. I really enjoyed them too. What I found pleasantly surprising here is that the asparagus+bacon+pepper becomes something greater than each ingredient on their own. I could've sworn there was some other seasoning on there. It just really worked and worked well. It's good to make sure the bacon gets fully crisped though. Otherwise it's hard to get a clean bite and the next thing you know you're sawing with your teeth to get through the bacon and then if you have a fibrous asparagus you're working on that too before you're completely free with your nibble.

All in all, it was a great Fourth of July and birthday celebration.

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