I have to confess something upfront about this month’s Charcutepalooza challenge: I don’t like stuffing sausage. I’ve done it before, more times than I really want to think about. I’m sure I’ll do it again. My problem is pretty simple. I’m not a particularly coordinated person. I don’t say that proudly by any means, but I accept the reality that I can barely walk around my bedroom without bumping into a piece of furniture, furniture which has been in the same place for seven years now. I may be understating things when I say my kitchen turns into a small disaster zone when it comes to my taking ground meat, feeding it back into a KitchenAid mixer, having that fill slippery pork casing (intestinal lining) and twisting that into links. Don’t even think I can make any photos while doing these dexterity-requiring moves. My one photo this month is the above “beauty” shot of my finished Italian sausage. I could use four hands for stuffing tasks, even more if I really wanted to photograph it, but my wife doesn’t love playing with ground meat and my daughters aren’t old enough—yet (just you wait girls, just you wait).
So yes, last month’s Charcutepalooza challenge is my preferred way of making sausage at home—formed patties (or sometimes other shapes). But we’re halfway into this Year of Meat and I’m not about to quit now, so I broke out the casing and got to stuffing. First up, the poultry sausage, where I once again decided to try something different and ground some duck confit I had made and stored back in January. The less said about this the better, not because it wasn’t any good, but simply because it didn’t do anything different than the confit non-in-sausage-form. I only made six small links and ate it all by simply lightly grilling it. After making the sausage I thought about doing it again but adding some ground liver or maybe even grinding in some foie gras. That could be really interesting. I didn’t take any photos of the duck links because they were kind of an unappealing brown color, and the last time I posted a photo of a dark brown length of sausage—a photo I thought looked really beautiful—the number of crap jokes made was pretty annoying. Ah the great communicative power of the Internet.
My duck sausage complete, I could’ve thrown in the towel. But I really wanted to make at least one photo and, having grown up in Rhode Island there are few things more Rhode “Italy” as my friend Rich would call it, than Italian sausage. Prior to a recent renaissance of meat in a casing, it was almost always assumed that any sausage you bought in Rhode Island was an Italian sausage, only really clarified further by deciding if you wanted hot or sweet. There’s also our proximity to Fenway Park where sausage and peppers has been a pre-game meal ritual for my family and friends (and millions of others) since I can remember going there. So I wanted to make Italian sausage (my preference has always been hot) and then make sausage and peppers for my huge-sports-fan wife.
I can’t talk about my recipe. I was asked not to. It’s an old Italian mother’s recipe and truth be told, now that I’ve read a whole bunch of hot Italian sausage recipes online, it’s not really that unique. I also don’t want to say who’s recipe it is because I made one small change (I split the total amount of paprika between regular Hungarian paprika and smoked paprika). I’m sure there’s some blasphemy in making that change, but that’s never stopped me before. The sausage came out great, not perfectly formed—you may be able to make out the right end is split in the photo above—but I managed to make about sixteen sausages without swearing too much. The clean-up honestly took me over an hour and included a vacuum cleaner and wet mop. When eating the whole links on a roll, with lots of peppers and onions, I thought the pork casing I used had a bit too much snap. But when I browned the links and cut them into one inch slices for putting in a gravy (there’s a Rhode Island line for you) it was like eating at my friend’s Italian mother’s house twenty-five years ago. That made it all worth it.
Recipe: Sausage and Peppers (and Onions, can anyone tell me why this sandwich is always just referred to as Sausage and Peppers?)
This is about as basic as it gets, so no typical recipe format. Brown some sausage links, using a tiny bit of olive oil if you need it, your sausage may render out enough fat without the additional oil. Put the sausage aside. If you want, put the sausage straight into buns and wrap loosely in aluminum foil so the sausage steams the bun. Into the browning pan goes much more sliced onion and green peppers than you think you need (along with salt and pepper, a little oregano and some sliced garlic for me). Add olive oil if necessary to saute. You’re going to saute the heck out of the peppers and onions, so it reduces quite a bit. If you want a little sweetness, caramelize the onions a bit, otherwise, take it off the heat when everything’s nice and mushy. Top the sausage-in-the-bun with a ridiculous amount of the peppers and onions so that when you take a bite it falls all over the place. Mangia!