Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Sausage Experiment

On the train ride home yesterday, I decide I want to eat Italian Sausage for dinner. Hmm, that’ll go well with the tube of polenta I have on my counter. What else should I get? So I go to the vegetable stand in my ‘hood and look around. I pick out an assortment of bell peppers (orange, yellow, and green) and a roma tomato. I also want some onion, but I think I have an onion. I’ll get one anyway, but all the yellow onions look terrible. Instead, I get a shallot. I’ve never really cooked with shallots, but it sounds good.

Then I head up the road to the Roxie for some mild sausages because the vegetable stand, while possessing a surprisingly wide selection of things non-vegetable, including pre-cooked sausages, they do not carry raw meat products.

When I get home I discover I do have half an onion, but it’s gone all moldy in the fridge. I really have no idea how to store unused parts of onions. Any tips would be appreciated. I chop all the vegetables into reasonably sized pieces and then arrive at the shallots. Realizing I have no idea what to do with a shallot, I consult my trusty handy dandy Joy of Cooking which tells me exactly which ends to cut off, how to chop it, and warns that they should be softened and not browned. Browning them apparently makes them bitter. As does crushing them, so take care in your chopping.

I also chop up a couple good sized garlic cloves because I’m largely incapable of cooking anything without garlic in it.

I start softening the shallots and the garlic in some olive oil, trying carefully not to brown them. Oh no! The garlic is starting to toast a bit. Browned shallots can’t be far behind. Quickly I squeeze the sausages out of their casings and throw them in. When the meats mostly cooked I add the green pepper. After a bit I added the tomato. Then I add what is fast becoming a staple ingredient of my cooking: old red wine I have lying around that’s probably no good to drink anymore. I used about a half a cup, but in retrospect should have used more. I throw a top on and let that simmer until the green peppers finally give up the ghost and go all pale and squishy.

Meanwhile, I take the tube of polenta and crush it into the bottom of a pyrex baking dish. It’s not very elegant, but it works. Then I pour the meat and stuff on top. Finally I add the yellow and orange peppers on top. I love orange peppers. I LOVE THEM. I would marry them, but I don’t often cook with them. They taste far superior raw. As I didn’t want them to lose all their flavor I just put them on top with the yellow peppers so that they would roast more than anything.

I popped it in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees, and viola! Polenta sausage pepper bake thingy. And very tasty. The orange and yellow peppers stayed very flavorful and firm adding a nice contrasting texture. The polenta soaked up the juices nicely, and the shallots must be adding to the flavor in there somewhere. Yellow onion probably would have worked fine too. Had I to do it again, aside from the aforementioned extra bit of wine, I would also spray the baking dish with some sort of non-stick canned oil, like PAM. Perhaps a sprinkling of parmesan or some similarly flavored hard cheese would do nicely as well. I’d also double the recipe as it was so good I ate half of it for dinner leaving me only one meal’s worth for leftovers.

For a more recipe like version of the recipe, click here.

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In 1789, the governor of Australia granted land and some animals to James Ruse in an experiment to see how long it would take him to support himself. Within 15 months he had become self sufficient. The area is still known as Experiment Farm. This is my Experiment Farm to see how long it will take me to support myself by writing.