My Grandpa was a butcher, so if there's a sausage-making gene somewhere, I figure my chances of inheriting it are at least 1 in 4. These odds were good enough for me to spend a glorious summer Saturday rinsing hog guts and grinding fatback (if you don't know what that is, you don't want to) in my little kitchen. I settled on making half traditional Cajun andouille and half hot Italian.
Really, the impetus for making my own sausage was control over the ingredients. I'm just not interested in eating pig noses and ears and wieners and all the other random odds and ends they send to the sausage plant, not to mention the added preservatives, artificial colorings and flavors, etc. And I have to say, it was easier than I thought it would be, and cheap - a four pound pork shoulder was under $10 at Central Market, and they gave me the fatback for free. Needless to say, I shall be doing it again.
Obviously, once you have sausage, you have to decide how to cook it. I'm partial to just throwing it on the grill (Allan loved cooking these because the fresh fat makes a pretty big fire), but that's far from the only option. The andouille, for example, is traditionally smoked, so I popped them into my stovetop smoker with some oak chips for 20 minutes and then made gumbo with them. [Purists, I found pecan chips for next time]. Flipping through this month's Bon Appetit, I discovered this little salad and needed to eat it. Immediately. I had to make a few minor adjustments because I couldn't find pomegranate molasses, but it was great anyway just like this.
Forgive me, I'm still figuring out this camera. My future-sister-in-law-to-be is coming to town over Labor Day, and I plan to coerce her into giving me a few lessons (with booze).
2 hot Italian sausages (obviously, homemade is ideal - how pretentious does that sound? But really, you should give it a shot)
few cups of mixed greens, rinsed and spun dry
handful of mint leaves (from your never-ending supply in the garden)
half of a red onion, sliced
4 fresh figs, quartered (I used little black mission figs, ohh, figs are so good)
handful of crumbled goat cheese
1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp shallots, minced
~1-2 tbsp olive oil
handful of little purple potatoes (I felt like this meal needed a starch to be "complete" - obviously you could do sliced baguette or garlic bread or anything you like, which in hindsight would be a much better idea than turning the oven on)
Start the grill and have your Grillmaster cook up the sausage while you get everything else together.
Quarter the potatoes, toss with olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and roast in a 400 degree oven until crispy. Alternatively, serve bread. This is a better idea.
In a heavy-bottomed pan, saute the red onion slices in a little olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper until caramelized, about 10 minutes.
Whisk together the white balsamic, shallots, and olive oil to form an emulsion.
When your sausages and potatoes (or whatever your starch may be) are ready, toss the lettuce and mint leaves with your dressing and plate it up. Slice the sausage. Strew the lettuce with the caramelized onion, fig quarters, and sausage slices, then top with the goat cheese. Consume!
Serves two, takes about half an hour.