|The Curmudgeon Cooks Sausage
||[Mar. 28th, 2012|05:33 pm]
No, not the pain the neck, need to buy special tools, mail order casings and preservatives, make a day of it…no, wait, spend half a day blowing out casings and covering your kitchen in ground meat, grease and goo, before you finally master the right speed, grind and pressure and then the rest of the day making actual sausage that doesn’t suck, or wouldn’t, except by now you’ve had so much to drink (when you found yourself digging ground pork out of your cat’s ear canal, you said to yourself, you know, this would be better with bourbon, as most cat ear-related tasks are) that you’re forgetting crucial ingredients so now you have PERFECT EXPLETIVE LINKS that aren’t worth eating. |
Not that I’ve ever done that.
Here’s the thing. I love sausage. (Let’s pause for a minute, pour a glass of wine while the boys get THAT thought out of their heads.) And I’m not going to start messing around with Bratwurst or Kielbasa, even Italian sausage, while there are perfectly competent sausage makers making really, really good sausage. But sometimes I want some sausage for breakfast, and while I will posit that there are definitely good breakfast sausage out there…they aren’t easily found in any random grocery store. Plus, breakfast…if I’m dancing with sausage, it’s probably going to bring carbs into the relationship, and next thing you know, cheese will be looking for a threesome, and then the vegetables will want to coat themselves in oil just to tart themselves up a bit and look good next to the cheese.
So, with that Fellini-esque orgy going on in the kitchen, I blanch a bit at the sodium and preservatives in your typical breakfast sausage. So, instead I just grab ground meat of convenience. Pork is the natural choice of course, but turkey and chicken (choose non-breast meat if you can) can be pressed into service and while some people might turn their nose up at beef or lamb…what goes on in your kitchen is YOUR business. But you’re going to need fat. You don’t have to, but you risk a bit of dryness and who wants THAT in the morning. It’s bad enough that YOU’RE hungover and couldn’t lick a stamp to save your life, don’t do that to your sausage. (yes, children, back when the Curmudgeon was a child and there were Titanoboas swallowing up crocodiles and school buses left and right, you had to lick stamps. Why the very act of communication was fraught with peril, what with getting ink on your fingers, risking paper cuts as you folded the damn paper and stuffed the envelope, risked cutting your tongue on the envelope flap and then had to lick the nasty-tasting stamp. You’re much better off now, of course, although you’ll all have arthritis so bad in your thumbs from texting that by the time you’re forty you’ll be effectively mute, but hey, by then we’ll all just be brains in boxes.)
You can try and combat the inherent leanness with a couple dashes of boiled cider…or regular cider…maybe some brown sugar. Choose a really fatty cut of grind. Traditional recipes will tell you to grind a pound of fat to mix in with your pound of meat, maybe half a pound of fat. The Curmudgeon on the other hand, has more than a touch of the lazy. And is not likely to have a pound of pork fat in the freezer. (Duck fat, yes, but that’s just going to make my sausage taste like the unholy progeny of swine and waterfowl…which of course, next weekend I’m going to have to try out, because Chimera Sausage is an awesome name, but I think you need something less challenging taste-wise.) So, you my friend, are going to pull a couple of thick cut bacon slices out of the freezer. Or more if you’re still buying that thin cut. While you’re getting out the thin cut, crack your head into the corner of the freezer and remind yourself that The Curmudgeon doesn’t hold with thin slice unless you’re wrapping something in it. And then you should probably be using prosciutto anyway. Sniff.
Wait. What? You don’t keep bacon in the freezer at all times? Hang on. Lack of bacon and cat ear chores both trigger Bourbon. Okay, I’m back.
Go to the store, buy some damn thick cut bacon. I would specify Niman ranch as easy to get at Whole Foods, or Nodine’s because I will pimp my Connecticut bacon makers any chance I can get. But something that tastes like more than just salt, smoke and fat. There should be some pork in there. Open up the package, lay out a sheet of wax paper or parchment paper. (Seriously, I can stand here all day, pointing a finger in the direction of your grocery store until you are properly equipped for daily life. Am I making you buy a Kitchenaid with a sausage stuffer attachment? No, just a damn box of wax paper or parchment, which you should have anyway. Put wax paper down when you’re going to hot glue something, that way if the object being glued falls or rolls over it’s easily peeled back off. )
Anyway, you’re going to peel off two strips of bacon at a time, lay them on top of each other on the edge of the wax paper. Fold the wax paper over so it covers those two strips. Lay down two more strips, fold the paper back, and repeat until the bacon is completely stacked. Wrap it all in plastic and then wrap that in foil, put it in the freezer and now you can pull out just the amount of bacon you need. In this case you’ll need about 2-4 slices per pound of ground meat.
I know, you thought I’d never get back to the sausage, did you? Chop it really fine. You can call it a mince. Which is French for “chop it really fine”. It’s easiest to do this if the bacon is mostly frozen. Which is why I went through that whole process of telling you to freeze it. I do NOTHING without reason, people.
Toss the bacon in with the ground meat. Season with…salt, pepper, and some cayenne or crushed red pepper. Anything else is optional, although a little would be top of my list, ginger, nutmeg, thyme...although if you were smart, you’d do what The Curmudgeon does and just use Penzey’s Breakfast sausage seasoning. Because seriously, my head is pounding, I started the polenta too early and it’s trying to seize up and congeal before I’ve even started the sausage and the vegetables were sautéed a while ago and while patient, eventually, they too will descend into chaos and mush. And the cheese…oh, expletive. I ate the cheese already. See, I’ll need that extra time to grate more cheese, so I HAVE to cheat and use a pre-mix, although I will maintain that if there’s nothing in there you wouldn’t have put in there – none of that garbahje that the major spice manufacturers throw in there – then really, Penzey’s is just saving me the trouble of mixing it myself.
Now: resist the urge to toss an egg in there, or anything but straight up flavorings. You’re NOT making meatloaf for crying out loud. Form into patties and sauté in a pan wiped with oil of choice.
There. Sausage worth eating.