When you’re homeless and without your gas grill or an oven or even a crock pot, you find ways to make do. We have a 2 electric (ugh) burner stove and a microwave in the motel. I don’t even have my cast iron pan. I do have a couple of decent Farberware pans though. But without a grill, I can’t make grilled brats. Without an oven, I can’t make baked beans. So what can I do this Fourth of July weekend? I can make Homeless Brats and Beans!
I sent Rott (aka my old man) to the grocery store. He brought me back the wrong brats. It was so noisy in the store that when I told him to get me a package of Johnsonville RAW brats, he didn’t even hear me. Well, he heard Johnsonville and brats so this is what he brought me.
Now, if you know me, I’m not the type who sends the poor guy back to the store. I don’t get mad at him either. He’s trying. He’s just not a cook so he is clueless when I send him on a grocery mission. And our mission communication was a bit off since he couldn’t hear me in his earpiece due to the noise of the crowds in the store. Besides, sending him to take something back is always the wrong thing to do. He curses more than you’ve ever heard someone curse and he gets way more angry and frustrated than a normal person would. After eighteen years, I know better than to ask him to do things that I know will end up with him coming home pissed off.
Before I start with the cooking, let me tell you about how I cook…some of this, a pinch of that, a squirt or a dash of this or the other, a handful of this…You get the picture. I don’t exactly measure anything. Being exact is what you do when you’re baking something that requires precision in measuring. Most cooking I do doesn’t require that kind of precision so don’t expect exact measurements from me on what I’m doing here.
Okay, so instead of cooking raw brats in a can of Boddingtons swiped from the fridge (ale he hasn’t been drinking anyway cause he really doesn’t drink unless he’s so pissed off he’s ready to stab someone) now I have to deal with smoked brats that are already cooked. What do I do with them? I slice them! Thick slices, cut on the diagonal. I set them aside.
Next, I chop up a bit of onion I had in the fridge. And I add to that some chopped green chilies. I almost had Rott get me a can of jalapenos. But I didn’t want to deal with a fresh jalapeno because you know, seeds and such. I’m lazy, especially when I don’t have a real kitchen. I don’t even have my chef’s knife, although the small knife I have here is super sharp! I tend to keep my knives, all the knives, that way. A little something I learned from my Dad…a kitchen without a sharp knife is no kitchen.
I had the stupidity to have forgotten to have Rott get me a few slices of Applewood smoked bacon. Eff. Me. What are beans without bacon? If I could get pork belly in the store I would, but I have yet to see it in Stater Bros market and I’m not sending Rott into Whole Foods Market after it. For one, it’s probably hideously expensive in Whole Foods and for another that place drives him completely bonkers. And at the motel, I don’t have a way to deep fry it anyway. If you have bacon, go ahead, dice it, cook it crisp, and then remove the bacon from the grease. Setting it on a paper towel to drain is best.Without bacon, I have to make do. I have a bit of bacon grease stored in the fridge. I use this to cook my onions and chilies. Now, if I didn’t have a sensitive gut, I would really have made this with chopped red bell pepper and half a fresh chopped jalapeno. Feel free to make yours with those ingredients and as much jalapeno as you want. Canned jalapenos work too, but they aren’t as flavorful or hot as the fresh jalapeno. I used to be able to eat those things, but alas, no longer. So onion and mild green chilies it is. Saute them in the bacon grease until the onions are translucent and the red pepper (if you use it) is soft. Remove the veggies. You can put them on the same paper towel as the bacon if you want.Now, I drop those nice chunks of bratwurst in the hot pan. Sizzle, sizzle. I cook them until they have a nice carmelization on them. (This smells especially delish if you’re using the brats cooked in beer.) Then, I dump in the bacon bits and veggies. Stir em up, just a minute will work. And into the pan goes a can of beans. Choose your favorite or make your own from scratch. There’s the old fashioned Campbell’s Pork and Beans or if you’re like me, one of the gazillion flavors of Bush’s Beans works really well.
Season these however works best for you. Me, I dump in some sea salt, a couple twists from the pepper grinder, garlic powder or I use fresh garlic when cooking the veggies if I have it. You can also add a splash of Worcestershire Sauce, a heaping teaspoon of golden brown sugar (Bush’s Honey Baked Beans are already sweet so sugar not really needed), a squirt of mustard or a teaspoon of powered Coleman’s mustard, a squirt of ketchup, and a squirt of soy sauce. When I use raw brats, cooked in beer, I also add a dash of liquid smoke. I’ve also been known to add a dash of yellow curry once in a while, although usually, I reserve the curry for when I make over easy eggs, but that’s a recipe for another day.
Now, normally, I’d do this in a cast iron skillet. I’d put some raw bacon on the top and I’d pop it into the oven for about 45 minutes, until the bacon on top is crisp. Here in the motel, I have to make the Homeless version of everything. So I stir everything together, bring to a boil, turn the temp down to simmer (a hard thing to do on an electric stove, ugh) and cover with a lid or foil. I want all the flavors to marry while I slow cook this for about 30-45 minutes.
While it’s cooking, I slice up part of a Portuguese Linguica sausage. I fry it up and set it aside. When the beans and brats are done, I put the linguica on top, like an edible garnish, since I don’t have an oven to bake bacon on top. You can also use a mix of linguica and brats in the dish itself. Linguica is amazing sausage! It’s not traditional in the least and neither are these beans. It’s just one way to still have your baked beans when you are homeless and without the resources and things you normally have. It’s a little spicier than normal baked beans especially if you use the red pepper and jalapeno (which also makes it very colorful and pretty!), but it’s still good stuff.Before I sign off, don’t forget, Winterheart Design has buy a book cover, get a free book trailer this 4th of July weekend. Your purchase helps keep us from living in our car and sending our cats to the pound. Also, keep a lookout for a blog post from me on what’s happening with my publishing career and what books you can expect to see from me soon.
Happy Fourth of July!