Sausage sizzles as main event, in cameo appearances

July 24, 2013 

Everyone loves a fat sausage grilled over a hot fire, bursting and sputtering with juices and blackened by the smoky fire? Add a little mustard and a crusty bun and many people are in culinary heaven. But there is another way to use sausage that's quite a bit healthier: Sausage can be chopped or minced and used as a seasoning. It is most effective if you brown it first and then add it to your recipe.

Chopped sausage will add a real zing to your tomato sauce with pasta and will be a great addition to an omelet, sprinkled on a grilled cheese sandwich, in grits or polenta or even in your gumbo. Sausage is a power boosting ingredient that will add intensity and depth to almost any recipe.

This recipe goes very well with yellow rice (annatto powder and white rice).

CUBAN BLACK BEANS AND SAUSAGE

32 ounces cooked black beans

1 pound smoked sausage, cut into 1-inch links

1 large red onion, chopped

1 large green bell pepper, chopped

6 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 cups homemade chicken stock

2 dried bay leaves

1 pinch dried oregano

2 pinches ground cumin

1 pinch red pepper flakes

Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Cilantro for garnish

Please feel free to make your beans from scratch, but for those in a bit of a hurry, use canned beans that have been well washed. Sauté the sausage in a little olive oil until well browned; remove, and in the same large pot, add the onions and bell pepper. Sauté for about 5 minutes, season with red and black pepper, then add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Add about a 1/2 cup of the beans, the cooked sausage, the chicken stock and cumin, bay leaf and oregano and simmer for at least 30 minutes. If the beans get too thick add a little water or a glass of white wine, if you like.

When the base is well seasoned, add the rest of the beans and simmer 15 minutes more. Black beans are always better the next day. Serve with yellow rice and fried plantains; if the occasion is festive, add roasted Cuban-style pork as the centerpiece. Make sure to garnish with lots of cilantro.

GRILLED SAUSAGE

There are many methods of grilling fresh sausage, but this one is time tested and proven. As always, a wood fire is best, followed by hardwood charcoal and, lastly, regular charcoal.

2 pounds fresh sausage

2 cups hard apple cider or beer

Wood fire made from pecan and hickory wood

Place the beer or hard cider in a large sauté pot and bring to a slow simmer. Add the sausages and slowly cook (to avoid breaking open the casings) until done, about 8 minutes. Build your fire so that it will provide hot coals

for at least 10 minutes. Grill the sausage, not so close to the flames so that they might burst, turning often with tongs (never a fork) until well done. Serve simply with cold beer, spicy mustard and good crusty bread.

PASTA SHELLS STUFFED WITH RICOTTA AND ITALIAN SAUSAGE

3-4 cups simple red sauce (tomato sauce, fresh basil and good olive oil and spices)

12 jumbo pasta shells

1 pound Italian sausage

2 cups ricotta

1 whole egg

2 pinches Italian seasoning

1 cup shredded mozzarella

1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (or more)

Cook the pasta according to package directions, but do not boil so hard that the shells break, Remove, drain and set aside to cool.

Break the sausage up and cook in a little olive oil until well done and browned. Add the egg to the ricotta and mix well, then add the sausage and 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano and mix well. Stuff the shells with the mixture, then add 1 cup of sauce to a deep baking dish. Fill the dish with the stuffed shells, top with the rest of the sauce and with the cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees until bubbly and well browned. Allow to rest for 5 or 10 minutes and then serve with a good Italian red wine.

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