Italian Sausage and Peppers

IMG_20150809_195830920I love Italian sausage and peppers, which is one of the easiest things in the world to make. If you are fortunate enough to have a killer Italian market in your vicinity, it is less than a couple of hours to pure nostalgic heaven. Italian sausage and peppers, typically served over polenta or on a crusty Italian hard roll, are a delicious treat you will find at any respectable street fair in an area that boasts a decent Italian-American population.

The ingredients are few, so this is not a place to skimp or cut corners. One bad apple spoils the batch of apple butter, so buy the best ingredients you can afford. Many Italian families make their dish with Italian sausage, onions and sweet peppers only, but my family also threw in some crushed tomatoes as well, which I prefer.

Green peppers are also traditional in this recipe, but I find they lend a bitter edge to the finished dish. A mix of yellow, orange and red sweet bell peppers is lovely and colorful, and keeps the bitterness factor out of the rich sauce.


Italian Sausage and Peppers

1 tablespoon good extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 lbs. sweet Italian sausage links (or a mix of sweet and hot if you prefer)
1 large yellow onion, sliced and the slices cut in half
1 large yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into thin strips
1 large orange bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into thin strips
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into thin strips
28 oz. crushed tomatoes (canned or boxed is fine)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the Italian sausage links and brown on all sides until they are richly browned. Remove to a plate.

Add the onion and sweet peppers to the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium and cook, tossing frequently with a pair of tongs, until softened and translucent. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and combine well. Bring to a simmer, then add the Italian sausage and any juice back to the pan, nestling the sausage links in the sauce.

Reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Cook, turning the Italian sausage occasionally, until the sausage is cooked through and the sauce becomes rich and thick, about 1 hour. Correct seasoning, if needed, and serve over polenta or on hard Italian crusty rolls.


Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya

Jambalaya. The very word evokes hot nights on the bayou, fiddle music, and cold beer. Ever since I first visited New Orleans almost 20 years ago, I can’t get enough of this stuff. It’s the rice/andouille/tomatoes/cayenne thing. And the shrimp.

This recipe comes to me from Tiffany, who made this for a boudin party (that’s a separate post) we had at my house (new kitchen means I want to cook all the things, and those for which I have no recipes, I want other people to make in my kitchen).

Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya

1 medium onion, quartered
1 stalk celery, quartered
1 red bell pepper, seeded and quartered
5 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tsp. vegetable oil
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
12 oz. andouille sausage, cut into 1/4-inch slices and halved
1-1/2 cups long-grain white rice
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained (reserve 1/4 cup juice )
1 cup bottled clam juice
1-1/2 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1-1/2 lbs. shrimp (31-40 count), peeled and deveined
2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley

Combine the onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until chopped fine.

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the pot, skin-side down, and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken and cook until golden brown on the opposite side, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Lower the heat to medium and add the andouille. Cook, stirring often, until browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.

Lower the heat to medium-low and add the chopped vegetables to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, about 4 minutes. Add the rice, salt, thyme and cayenne; cook, stirring constantly, until the rice is coated with the fat, about 1 minute. Add the diced tomatoes, reserved tomato juice, clam juice, chicken broth, bay leaves and cooked sausage to the pot. Stir to combine.

Remove the skin from the chicken pieces and place the chicken on the rice so that the side the skin was just removed from is now facing down. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and let simmer for 15 minutes. Stir once, keeping the chicken in the same general position, and continue to simmer until the chicken is no longer pink inside, about 10 minutes more.

Transfer the chicken to a clean plate or cutting board and set aside. Scatter the shrimp over the rice, cover, and continue to cook until the rice is fully tender and the shrimp are opaque and cooked through, about 5 minutes more.

While the shrimp are cooking, shred the chicken. Once the shrimp are finished cooking, discard the bay leaves, stir in the chicken and parsley, and serve immediately.


What the Hell is Porchetta-Style Pork

Porchetta-style pork

It doesn’t mean car, apparently.

That’s not a question. That’s what I thought when I first saw this recipe in Women’s Health magazine, so that’s what I call the recipe. And I’ll straight away that I used the wrong cut of pork but loved the marinade. I also was not a fan of the beans/lemon juice/rosemary thing, so I’m not going to post that recipe. You can follow the link and get it if you need, but consider yourself warned, OK?

1 Tbs fennel seeds

3 cloves minced garlic or 1 1/2 tsp jarred stuff

1 Tbsp rosemary

2 oranges worth of zest*

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 pork roast

salt and pepper, to taste (I always use fresh-ground pepper)

1. Preheat oven to 450º (My awesome new oven takes forever to preheat, so I set it to preheat the same time I take the pork out the of the fridge and let it come down to room temp.)

2. On a cutting board, mix the garlic, fennel, zest, and rosemary together and start chopping. The mixture will get clumpy (the magazine calls it “pasty” but they’re fancy and I am not). That’s when you should put it in a bowl and add the olive oil.
3. Marinate the pork with this. I always find it helpful to stab the pork with a knife a few times to let the marinade seep in, and this is especially helpful with the “pasty” marinade that doesn’t run down the meat in drizzles. This is almost a dry rub except, well, it’s oily.

4. After sufficient time has passed – and this is wholly and completely up to you, because I didn’t wait but five minutes and the recipe says you can let it sit for four hours (although really, you can let it sit for a few days, who the hell are you to decide, Women’s Health? You don’t know me and my pork proclivities!) – put the pork in a roasting pan and roast it for about 35 minutes, depending on your oven and whether or not you, like me, don’t insist on well-done pork.

5. Once the pork has a minimum internal temp of 155º, remove it from the oven and let it rest for a few minutes. This is NOT the part where you make that godawful bean recipe. This is the part where you heat a nice can of black beans or pour yourself an indulgent glass of montepulciano d’abruzzo.

6. Eat.

Oh, and “porchetta” means – loosely translated – savory, fatty pork. This doesn’t taste fatty at all. It tastes like oranges and pepper, which I love.

*Do yourself a favor and peel and section the oranges after you zest them, then save for later. If you forget, odds are in your favor to find two green moldy lumps in your fridge next week. #PersonalExperience