Wednesday, August 15, 2007

"Entertaining with Kathi" Newspaper Food Column ~ August 15. 2007

The dog (and sausage) days of summer are here
By Kathi Dameron

It was a “fun, fun, fun till daddy takes the T-bird away” sort of August weekend. Riding dune buggies, hang-gliding, and sipping Strawberry Hill watermelon shooters at the Michigan Dunes was the sort of thing that Chicago-area teenagers with automobiles did to entertain themselves in the lazy summer days of the early 1970s.

“You're grounded until you are 35, young lady!” the words shot across the room.

“But daddy, what about the concert? You said I could go to it.”

Flashing me a thunderous look, I knew I was hang gliding over a watershed and heading into the eye of a twister.

“Daddy. I'm sorry,” I said with a signature roll of my eyes.

"Katherine Anne, if you were sorry, you wouldn't have done it in the first place. You can forget going to that concert.”

The telephone rang and, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, my angry dad morphed into the gregarious BJ: “Rearing Katherine is a real challenge,” he chuckled with whomever was on the other end.

“Rearing Father is a real challenge,” I mumbled under my breath as I stormed out of the kitchen and retreated to the safe harbor of my diary.

Like driftwood washed ashore on the beach, so lay the visions of the previous night's dune dance and dinner, where spiked watermelon, grilled bratwurst and forbidden Strawberry Hill was on the menu. When we stashed the empty bottles of Boone's Farm, I didn't realize that they would end up in my picnic basket as incriminating evidence.

“So what are your plans tonight?” he asked.

“What?" I said, scrunching my face at the absurdity of the question. In 30 minutes' time, my dad had forgotten that he had just grounded me for life. Maybe he was going to let me go to the concert after all.

“No more Boone's Farm, OK?” he said with a look of deep concern on his face.

“Sure dad. It didn't taste all that good anyway. I'd rather have a chocolate milkshake any day.”

The taste that was actually the most memorable was the mixed grill, skewered on big shish-kebab rods and roasted over a sizzling bonfire, then eaten inside a chewy Sheboygan bun slathered with German mustard.

The region I grew up in was well-known for the best sausage dogs in the world. From June through September, bratwurst and its culinary cousins were the popular stars of outdoor cookery.

Whether prepared individually or in mixed grills that combine the tastes of bratwurst, thurman, Vienna, Polish and all-beef kosher hot dogs - this simple menu is perfect for casual summer shindigs that are sure to please the inner teenager.

To the menu add some garlic smashed-potato salad or the simplicity of bagged chips, a crisp salad, ice-cold watermelon boats and other favorites for a "Fun, Fun, Fun Till Daddy Takes The T-Bird Away Feast."

If you want to create the drama of letting your guests cook their bratwurst over an open blaze, I would recommend that you par boil the sausages first. This way you can be assured that the sausages will be completely cooked throughout. The last thing you want is for someone to bite into a raw center. Then, proceed as follows.

1. Fill a pot with plenty of beer or water, add some coarsely chopped onions, drop in the sausages and simmer over a low heat. Whatever you do, don't boil them! Boiling will cause the casings to burst and the delicious flavor within to be lost.

2. At the appointed hour, grill the the brats over the fire. When cooked to perfection, slide the sausage into a big fire-toasted Bavarian-style semmel roll and add Dijon or German mustard and your favorite condiments.

Kathi Dameron is a food and entertaining memoirist, culinary arts professional, food stylist, freelance writer, corporate blogger, newspaper columnist, and former caterer and special event designer. She is the CEO of Kathi Dameron and Associates, a consulting company that specializes in culinary collaborations. Her "Entertaining with Kathi" column runs in the Northeast Chronicle, a bi-weekly publication of the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper (Gannett) in Tallahassee, Florida.

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Photo Credit: Hilde Vanstraeden & SXC

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