My oldest daughter has grown an attachment to Gordon Ramsey and his Master Chef Junior program. She watches intently as he drills the kids through kitchen preparation lessons, takes notes when he comments during tasting, and nods in approval when he chooses the winner. To that end, I have been cooking more and more with her in the kitchen, taking to even calling her ‘Junior Chef,’ and for her part, she responds to my instructions with, “Yes, Chef!” Our latest kitchen project was pan fried sausage, with peppers and onions, served with a side of Tuscan bread. When I lived in Catania, Sicily, there was a butcher shop down the road that only prepared sausages, and I was there twice a week. Of course, his brother’s shop across the way specialized in polpette di carne equina, and I only visited him about once a month. I’ll let you Google that one to figure out why.
Tips for Preparing Sausage
For too many years, and I shake my head when I reflect on this lost time, I struggled to pull together a decent pan-fried sausage meal. The salsiccia, as the Italians know it, would come out dry and crusty from over cooking, or still raw in the middle from too little. I tried different frying heats, experimented with a variety of cooking oils, and dabbled with other preparations, but in the end, it took a simple stroke of ‘Duh’ to show me the light. To successfully pan-fry sausage, I use three distinct cooking steps. To start, my daughter cuts the links with kitchen shears in the middle of the twist. This ensures the ends will remain closed during cooking. If they were pulled apart, the rupture would question the integrity of the intestinal wrapping and the stuffing pours out when frying. Second, I simmer the meats for 20 minutes in a water bath on medium high before frying. This is just right for cooking the interior without leeching out flavor. When the timer goes off, the sausages dry on paper towels, evaporating off excess water. After a minute or so, I’ll add them to a medium high preheated frying pan lightly coated with olive oil, turning to brown evenly.
Peppers and Onions
While I’m preparing the salsiccia, my daughter cuts the vegetables. We use a colorful variety of peppers for presentation, and yellow onions to taste. In the past, I cooked the veggies in the same pan as the sausage to economize on preparation and clean-up time, but the end result was a flavor saturated, flimsy and floppy glop of peppers that would work only in a sausage sub. As the plan is to serve the peppers and onions as a side, I now prepare them separately. Again, this olive oil-coated pan is heated to medium high, and the vegetables sauteed for five minutes or so. I’m looking for that region between snap-crisp and floppy that simply takes a bit of experience to reach .
Topping It Off
If we have time before dinner, my daughter and I will bake a loaf of Tuscan bread, but if not, we’re still happy. Before we even turn the water on to boil, we’ll visit our local Italian market, Angela’s, in the North end of Manchester, NH. My daughter chooses the loaf, and I scope out the wines and cheeses. All around, we can expect to spend a good 30 minutes just browsing and sipping a shared Pellegrino. Then, it’s back home to whip up our hearty Italian comfort food meal for the family.