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.

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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.

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Boudin.

Boudin.

Boudin, after hours of prep.

“Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.” –Otto von Bismarck

A few months ago, a group of women I know realized one of our friends knew how to make boudin. Boudin, in case you aren’t up on your regional sausages, is a Louisiana-centric way of making sausage. Essentially, it’s pork butt, liver, onions, garlic, green peppers, celery, rice, and seasoning, run through a grinder and stuffed in sausage casing.

Which is what we did. First, Tiffany chopped an astounding amount of pork butt (we made enough for nine people) and chicken liver. Then we added onions, garlic, green peppers, celery, parsley, green onion tops, rice, salt, cayenne, and black pepper. Mix it all together, stuff it in the casings (yes, intestines, and no, they aren’t as gross as you think), boil, and they’re ready to go. There’s a bit more to the process (see below), but that’s the gist.

Grinding

This is cooked pork butt and chicken liver, going through the grinder on my Kitchen Aid.

Making boudin takes far less effort than I’d previously thought, and it opened up a whole world of sausage making to me. However, I’ve realized I need to hone my sausage stuffing skills. I’m pathetic. Also, I need to buy a special attachment for my Kitchen-Aid to stuff boudin (or any sausage). When we did this, Juju (with a name like that, yes, she’s the one from Louisiana) let us use hers.

So, here’s the boudin recipe, and realize it isn’t spicy hot, so you can serve this to even the wimpiest ones in your family. Also, if you can overcome the intestine skins as casings, you can do anything with the, Seriously. I’m toying with seafood sausage, egg and bacon sausage, vegetarian (well, except for the casing) sausage. A whole new world of yum has opened itself unto me!

Boudin

I stuffed the lumpy sausages. Juju stuffed the pretty ones.

Now, the boudin:

2 1/2 pounds of pork butt (or meat of your choosing)

1/2 pound of liver (we used chicken liver, but you can use whichever liver makes you happy)

1/2 teaspoon garlic, chopped

1/2 cup green pepper, chopped

1/2 cup celery, chopped

6 cups rice, cooked

1 cup parsley, chopped

1 cup green onions (tops only)

Directions:

  1. Cut pork into two-inch chunks.
  2. Clean the livers. You’ll know how to do this when you see them.
  3. Boil the pork and liver with everything but the green onions and the parsley in water for at least 90 minutes, but not more than two hours. Let it cool.
  4. While it’s cooling, run cool, clean water through the, uh, casings.
  5. Grind to medium coarse in meat grinder.
  6. Mix with rice and season to taste (salt, pepper, chili pepper of your choice and amount)
  7. Use your sausage stuffer attachment to stuff the boudin as you would sausage (just think about what sausage should look like as you do this; it’s relatively self-explanatory as to how to attach the “casings” to the stuffer and get things stuffing) and start stuffing. Knot between links.
  8. Boil to cook and cure. A few minutes should do it. You will, I should note, still have to cook the sausage – fried in oil, boiled with jambalaya, whatever works for you.

And there you have it. You just made sausage!

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