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Ther Great Milwaukee Brat Burger

As a native Chicagoan, my only conception of Milwaukee came from childhood memories of American TV favorites, such as "Happy Days" and "Laverne & Shirley." But, as a transplant to Milwaukee I fell in love with the charm and passion of this Midwest urban oasis. Milwaukeeans are passionate about nearly everything but especially beer, brats, beef, cheese...and Brett Favre, until recently. Milwaukee is a city of industry, hope, and promise…traits upon which the American dream was built and those that brought the first German immigrants to settle, work, and prosper in this great country. These German roots still hold strong in the culture and epicurean landscape of Milwaukee. The American tradition of tailgating is alive and well in this great city. Burgers and brats make regular, but highly anticipated, appearances at festivals, game days, and weekend cookouts. Our considerable love for food is balanced with humor and American spirit. In what other city can you see major league baseball fans cheer giant sausages and cheese tubs as they race around the baseball diamond at the seventh inning stretch. As true Americans, Milwaukeeans are always in search of something bigger and better, including burgers. The Great Milwaukee Brat Burger is my answer to that quest. From humble ingredients, comes a spirited, earnest burger with big taste that reflects Milwaukee’s German roots and the pursuit of the American Dream or at least, the Better Burger.


For Burger:
2.25 pounds of lean ground beef
12 ounces fresh bratwurst (regular flavor, meat removed from its casing) (Usinger or Johnsonville brands preferred)
1 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground pepper (approximately 4 cranks of mill)
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1large egg

For Thousand Island Dressing:
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
3/4 cup prepared mayonnaise
1/4 cup bottled chili sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup
4 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
Freshly ground black pepper (approximately 4 cranks of mill)

For Toppings:
1 large red onion (sliced in approximately 1/4 inch rings)
6 slices of sharp cheddar cheese
1 bag of sauerkraut (found in refrigerated section of grocery store), room temperature

For Buns:
6 Kaiser Rolls, sliced in half
1 clove garlic (peeled) for rubbing


Pre-heat gas grill to 600 degrees. While grill is heating, prepare the following.

For Thousand Island Dressing:
Make a garlic paste by combining garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and crushing them with the back of a fork on a flat surface until mixture resembles rough paste. In a medium mixing bowl, combine garlic paste, mayonnaise, chili sauce, ketchup, relish. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside if using promptly or refrigerate until ready to use.

For toppings:
Slice red onion.
Place cheese slices to the side.
Bring sauerkraut to room temperature.

Place beef and bratwurst in a large mixing bowl. Add red pepper, salt, garlic powder, pepper and egg. Using your hands, combine ingredients until well incorporated. Do not overwork meat. Gently form mixture into 6 - 1/2 pound patties, making sure the patties are of even thickness at the center and edges.

Place prepared patties on preheated grill. For medium burgers, cook burgers on high heat for 4-5 minutes. Turn heat to medium (approximately 350 degrees) and flip burgers. Burgers should release from grill grate with ease. Finish cooking burgers for another 5 -7 minutes.

While the burgers finish cooking, grill buns until lightly toasted. Remove buns from grill and rub each grilled side with garlic clove. During the last 45 seconds of grilling, placed one slice of cheese over each burger and melt.

Remove burgers from grill and let rest for approximately 1-2 two minutes. Meanwhile, slather both ends of each bun with the Thousand Island Dressing mixture. Place burger on bottom bun and top with 1-2 slices of red onion and sauerkraut to taste. Set other half of bun on top and enjoy!