Last week, Serious Eats' own Roger Kamholz emailed me to propose an evening of spätzle and sauasage in the North Center neighborhood of Chicago, where a couple of old school German restaurants are still serving up the most straightforward and traditional food of that cuisine. Of course, I obliged. While Roger would cover the spätzle (read his post here), my job was the sausage.
In general, the sausages offered by the restaurants we visited were an emulsified style that's very common in Germany. Rather than encountering the texture and chewiness of coarsly ground sausage (think Italian sausage), emulsified sausages are made with ground meat and spices which are then mixed with ice-cold water and rapidly mixed or processed, resulting in a smooth paste that's subsequently stuffed into casings. The sausage in this style we're all most familiar with is, of course, the frankfurter—today's modern hot dog.
The result of this sausage making technique produces, in my opinion, one of the finest styles of sausage in the world. With something like 1400 kinds of sausage that call German cuisine their home, you know you're in good hands.
At Resi's Bierstube, our first stop, they use sausages from Paulina Meat Market. We opted for the smoked Thuringer and a Weisswurst as apart of the dinner plate (if you ask, they'll let you mix and match the sausages) with sauerkraut and German-style potato salad. The Thuringer is a strongly flavored sausage made from beef and pork, while the Weisswurst uses milder seasoning and veal.
To put it quite simply: the sausages were marvelous. They came plump and poached (or possibly steamed) until the casing was situated just between firm and pliant, holding inside a tremendous amount of moisture and flavor. The Thuringer, in particular, managed to taste both aggressively smoky and subtly seasoned.
Poaching is not the only way to cook these sausages, though. Down and across the street at Laschet's Inn, our waitress named Cookie (an occasion I have long hoped for) suggested the appetizer sausage plate as a good way to taste their offerings.
Here, the sausages from from Gene's Sausage Shop (which I've previously covered on Sausage City), and they grill then slice them for you: traditional German bratwurst, knackwurst, and Thuringer sausages.
You might think that the method of grilling would produce a slightly less moist result, but grilling does nothing to lessen the juiciness—not in the slightest. That's the major advantage of emulsified sausage making; through the mixing process the fat and water emulsify, trapping water inside a network of proteins and fats. Made correctly, these sausages will juicy all the way through, and if you like a crisper casing with some color on it, this is the ticket.
Drawing a comparison between Resi's and Laschet's is splitting hairs. I prefered the sauerkraut at Laschet's Inn but the cooking method at Resi's, and while the service at Laschet's was better, I liked the decor and beer selection at Resi's. Either way, they're worth it for the surprisingly great food at very affordable prices (the portions are very generous), and the chance to taste traditional food done right.
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