As we get into late September and then into October—into the autumn—I feel myself come alive a little more.
I feel my colors become a bit more vibrant in the autumn, and my enthusiasm for simple festivities increase.
Perhaps it's the promise of cooler weather, and of the holiday season just around the corner; of a fresh, crisp breeze that, in the evenings, brings a slight chill, and that gets my excitement going.
Or perhaps it's the simple fact that the sun sets earlier, and earlier making it that much more pleasant to mosey around outdoors in comfort, until eventually, some bundling up will even be called for.
Whatever it is exactly, I'm not sure; but I know that there's a certain type of light that is simply irresistible to me, and a particular vibe in the air that beckons me out to mix and mingle with others.
I begin looking for reasons to celebrate a little, to let loose and take a little extra time to just breathe, and be.
I begin looking for reasons to fall in love with my surroundings and with others again, and to allow myself to be led into whatever awaits me in the new season.
October, of course, brings with it the festivities of “Oktoberfest”, a time when folks get together to celebrate their heritage with delicious savory food and cold flowing beer.
And how wonderfully fun is that?
A tiny town just north of us has already had their banner up for weeks advertising their special Oktoberfest celebration, which will take place (and always takes place) the first Saturday in October.
And you know, I'm really beginning to look forward to going with my hubby and our little dog, Lola, and getting lost in the crowd of jolly folks who are themselves just looking for some fun family time.
Fun family time...a novel idea, right?
Perhaps that's what it is that my soul craves.
Happy kids running around with their friends, going to this booth and then to that booth, sampling the various sweet treats and the taste of that sliver of freedom that mom and dad has given them for the evening; parents and their friends getting together to sample the brats and the beer; and everyone being led by their appetites—their bellies, and the desire to connect in a lighthearted way.
Fall just seems to bring out that type of vibe, in my opinion; one of innocent fun, coupled with a desire for spicy-sweetness, or earthy, savory flavor.
And this year, I thought I'd, once again, offer up another little tummy-warming and savory Oktoberfest recipe of my own.
A couple of years back, I served up this soul-comforting Oktoberfest Lager Stew, which frankly, is perfectly pleasurable to prepare and ladle up well after Oktoberfest (and the fall) is over.
But this year, I thought I'd take all of those same elements, those tasty morsels used in so much of the Oktoberfest celebration, and make some tantalizing and delectable Oktoberfest Potato Skins stuffed with beer-caramelized onions, sauerkraut and bits of bratwurst sausage.
Now doesn't that sound like something that would go spectacularly with an icy-cold beer?
So as we find ourselves embarking on this glorious autumn season, a season that contains the potential for much merriment and cozy-comfort, I find myself longing to sample all of the various flavors that it has within it.
I long to taste the simplicity of the light and the breeze; the simplicity of the food; and the simplicity of good, clean autumn fun that brings families, friends, and neighbors together to enjoy one another's company.
Taste what's good and pass it on.
Oktoberfest Potato Skins stuffed with Bratwurst Sausage, Beer-Caramelized Onions and Sauerkraut
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Makes 8 potato skins
• 4 russet potatoes, scrubbed and dried
• Canola oil
• Black pepper
• 2 Bratwurst sausage links, sliced into circles
• 2 large onions, quartered and sliced thinly
• ½ cup lager (good, Oktoberfest variety)
• 2 tablespoons melted butter
• ½ cup gruyere & white cheddar cheese blend, grated (you can use just gruyere if you can't find the blend)
• ½ cup sauerkraut
• Freshly cracked black pepper
-Preheat the oven to 400°, and line a baking sheet with foil; place a wire rack over the baking sheet.
-Place your potatoes into a large bowl, and drizzle a bit of oil over them, plus a couple of pinches of salt and pepper; rub the oil/seasoning into their skins.
-Place the potatoes onto the wire rack set over the baking sheet, and bake the potatoes for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until tender when pierced with knife; remove from oven and allow them to cool just until they can be handled.
-While the potatoes bake, place a large, non-stick pan over medium-high heat; drizzle a small amount (about 1-2 teaspoons) of oil into pan, and add in the bratwurst slices in a single layer; allow the brat slices to brown on that first side for about 3-4 minutes, then flip the slices and brown on the other side, until completely cooked through; drain in a paper towel-lined bowl, and set aside for a moment.
-Drain the grease from pan leaving about 1-2 tablespoons (you may not have much to drain, depending on how fatty the brat slices were), and with the heat still on, add in the sliced onions plus a pinch or two of salt and pepper; allow the onions to caramelize to a deep golden-brown, for about 20-25 minutes on a medium-low heat, stirring frequently.
-While the onions caramelize, chop the cooked brat slices into small bits.
-Once the onions are caramelized, add the chopped bratwurst bits back into the pan with the onions, and stir to combine; add in the lager, and allow the beer to reduce for a moment and become glossy and just slightly thickened; turn off the heat, and check to see if any more salt or pepper are needed, and set aside keeping the mixture warm.
-Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut the potatoes in half lengthwise, and carefully scoop out most of the flesh leaving about ¼ – ½” border of potato; reserve the flesh for another use.
-Brush some of the melted butter onto the inside of each potato (and add a couple of pinches of salt and pepper), as well as onto the skins, and place back on the rack, flesh-side up; place under the broiler to brown for several moments, and once inside is slightly browned, flip the potato and crisp the skins for a couple of moments.
-Fill each crispy potato skin with the brat/onion mixture, and sprinkle with a little of the grated cheese; return under the broiler to melt the cheese for just a few seconds; then, finish the skins by topping with a pinch or two of the sauerkraut and a twist of the pepper, and enjoy while hot (with a good lager, if desired)!