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Easter Brunch: Braised Polish Sausage

April 17, 2006

Sausage3.jpg

I really do not like sausage. At all. I leave it up to you to judge whether my summer of dishwashing at Bob Evans instilled this firm distaste for the classic breakfast of the Midwest - links and maple syrup, sticky and cold on the heavy plates by the time they got to me.

But whatever the reason - those dry, crumbly breakfast patties? No way. Maple flavored links? Oh no. No thank you. I prefer the bacon. Really.

But here I was, cooking brunch for over 30 people on Easter, and I could not offer just almond croissants, hot cross buns, Eccles cakes, egg salad in foofy pastry cups, and quiche. All that and the Cadbury Mini Eggs would not quite cover it for those who prefer a heartier start to their day.

A large quantity of meat was clearly required. Sausage was the obvious choice, and I felt quite glad, actually, to find fresh Polish kielbasa at the grocery, along with some hot Italian sausage. My family is Slavic, Cleveland born and bred, good football fans and Catholic faithfuls. Kielbasa runs in the family, so to speak, and I have a marginal tolerance for it.

But there was one problem. I was going to church on Sunday morning. This is somewhat out of character, as my little church generally meets on Saturday evenings. (It's wonderful - you should try it sometime. Sleep in on Sunday! Shocking, I know, I know...) But we decided to visit an Episcopal cathedral on Easter morning. It was beautiful - the sun streaming in, the soaring music, the people of God, whatever their background or present condition of their faith, gathered here together for just a few moments to celebrate the one thing we had in common. It was new and yet familiar. Strange people, unfamiliar place, but a common hope. It was stirring and wonderful to sit through a service that has brought some small stirring of life and hope as it's been heard and remembered by millions of people for over a thousand years. Easter is very precious to me, and this was a good one.

All that being said, I still had sausage. Sausage that didn't have time to cook after church, and if I cooked it before and left it lukewarm - well, I didn't want everyone coming down with a nasty souvenir from Easter brunch. That would not be hope-conducive. Quite the contrary.

So I got up early, started with the standard Publix-issued recipe from the package of sausages, and improvised. This was the first time I had ever cooked sausage, after all, so I went with the basic recipe. But I wound up startled - a three-step cooking process, ending with a braise, produced something wonderful and tender. Gone was the chewy, crumbly sausage I abhor. Gone was the boiled taste of pig fat.

First, following directions, I steamed all the sausages to cook them through. Then I sliced them in half and fried them well with some onions and garlic, so the edges caramelized and nearly burned, giving them a deep, dark flavor.

Then, the improvisation. I put them all in the oven on very low heat during the whole time I was at church. No, my apartment didn't burn down. But I was worried the sausages would. I was worried they would get all dried out. So I put a glug of red wine in with the kielbasa, and white with the Italian. Then I covered them and left them to steep safely in the oven for four hours. (It was a long service.)

What came out was something deliciously savory, all the flavor of the wine and the pork emerging in gentler, less aggressive ways. The onion and the garlic added some high notes. There was a rich broth surrounding the melting, broken pieces of sausage, steaming fragrant.

So I actually tried a nibble, and I liked it so much I had a whole plate of leftovers for dinner. I liked it so much that here I am submitting it to the fourth Weekend Cookbook Challenge hosted by the very kind Sara and Alicat, who let me bend the rules and claim a Publix sausage label as an untried, untested (to me anyway!) cookbook recipe. I liked it so much that I want to play around with it some more - add more onions, some sage, some mushrooms or artichokes. Maybe there is some hope for sausage after all.

Braised Sausage

1 lb fresh, uncooked sausage (Polish, Italian - whatever. Use what you like.)
1 cup of wine (Red or white - depends on your taste and the sausage.)
1 onion
4 cloves of garlic

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
2. Slice the onion and sliver the garlic.
3. Put the sausages in a large pan with a heavy bottom (preferably one that can go in the oven) and add a cup of water. Bring it to a boil, then turn to medium low and cover the pan. Steam for 15 minutes or until the sausages' internal temperature registers 160 degrees F. [This probably isn't necessary if you're going to braise them in the oven, but it's what I did, so I'm documenting it here.]
4. Drain the water from the pan and take out the sausages. Slice them in half lengthwise, then crosswise, so each sausage is now in four pieces.
5. Put a bit of olive oil in the pan, now emptied of water, and heat to medium high. Brown the sausage on all sides. Brown it well - this is where the principal flavor comes from.
6. After about five minutes add the garlic and onion and stir until slightly softened.
7. If this is the pan that's going to go in the oven, put in the wine now. If not, turn off the stove and transfer the sausages to an oven-safe pan and add the wine.
8. Cover and put in the oven. Leave it there for about four hours.
9. Take it out and serve with rice or potatoes and a good green salad. Just leave the maple syrup for the pancakes please. For my sake.

And below, the aforementioned hot cross buns. These were delicious, but so ubiquitous at Easter that I am not posting the recipe. I find that two-day old buns, toasted with butter, are very good indeed.

Buns.jpg

Posted by Faith at 17 April 2006

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Comments

bestill my beating heart, a new way to cook sausages!
like you, i hail from good eastern european stock, unlike you however i LOVE kielbasa
i've never heard of this three (or even two) step process of cooking sausages
in my family its always brown, bake or braise
this steaming/browning idea, thats really intersting, i'll definitely have to try it
thanks faith!

Posted by: ann at April 18, 2006 09:02 AM

Hi Ann! Yeah, kielbasa to me hardly qualifies as sausage - it's something a little different, and I definitely like it when it's done like this! Frankly, I think my cooking method was a little overkill. I decided at the last minute to leave them in the oven, and so I really don't know if the steaming was necessary. I will try it again sometime and see!

Posted by: faith at April 18, 2006 09:11 AM

Hi from another Clevelander (although I'm still here). I'm Slovak, and so of course we had keilbasi for Easter breakfast. I've always liked it, but I've never thought of straying from the preparation my mother taught me. But braised--this sounds potentially amazing.

Posted by: lucette at April 19, 2006 10:57 AM

Beautiful buns, yours! ;-)

Posted by: Alanna at April 21, 2006 07:06 AM

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