- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 13, 2004

I love it that football season is in full swing now. For me, it’s the perfect excuse to throw a tailgate party.

Why do I love tailgating so much? Maybe it comes from the simple pleasure of eating outdoors with friends in the crisp autumn air. Maybe it’s the fun, crazy atmosphere that develops in a stadium parking lot - or, for that matter, in front of your television - before the big game starts.

I know one reason for sure: I love to make the food for such a casual party, and I love to eat it.

My fellow chefs and I have been known to bring a charcoal grill along with us when we go to a game. One of my favorite things to make is my own fresh Italian-style turkey-and-pork sausages, which I precook, then brown on the grill and serve with sauteed bell peppers and onion, nestled in long toasted sandwich rolls.

Turkey is a great choice for making your own sausages, because its so lean and takes so well to Italian seasonings like garlic, cayenne pepper and whole fennel seeds (toast these beforehand, to develop their flavor, by stirring them in a small dry skillet over low heat until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes). Nevertheless, I like to combine it with some pork to keep the sausages extra-juicy, and to add some of that meat’s richness. But you could certainly use all turkey if you prefer.



The great thing about the following recipe is how easy it is to manage and serve in a parking lot. I know that your first reaction is that the recipe actually looks a bit long and complicated. But most of the instructions are for things you can and should do in advance, as early as the afternoon before, whether you’re watching the game at the stadium or on TV: make the fresh sausage mixture; shape it using plastic wrap and aluminum foil; precook the sausages by poaching them in a simple Court Bouillon; and precook the pepper-and-onion mixture.

Then, just keep everything packed airtight and chilled in the refrigerator. If you’re heading out for the game, transfer all the perishables to a cooler with lots of ice just before you set out. Be sure to bring along a battered old saucepan you can use on the grill to reheat the peppers and onions.

Before the game, all you have to do is preheat the grill; reheat the peppers and onions; split and toast the rolls; brown the sausages and slice them; and quickly assemble the sandwiches. Pass them around, enjoy them with your favorite pregame beverage, and you’re certain to have a memorable day - no matter how many touchdowns your team scores.

ITALIAN SAUSAGE “GRINDERS” WITH PEPPERS AND ONIONS

Makes 6 sandwiches

SAUSAGES:

1 1/2 pounds (750 g) boneless, skinless turkey meat, trimmed and cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) cubes

1 1/2 pounds (750 g) boneless pork butt, trimmed and cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) cubes

3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon whole fennel seeds

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cups (500 ml) chicken stock or good-quality canned chicken broth

PEPPERS AND ONIONS:

1/4 cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

3 bell peppers, halved, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) strips

2 medium white onions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) wedges

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon paprika

2 bay leaves

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

COURT BOUILLON:

2 carrots, peeled and trimmed

2 celery stalks

1 leek, trimmed, halved lengthwise, and thoroughly washed

1 sprig fresh thyme or 1 pinch dried thyme

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 quarts (2 l) water

2 cups (500 ml) dry white wine

GRINDERS:

6 submarine sandwich-style rolls

Extra-virgin olive oil

Dijon mustard

First, prepare the sausages: In a mixing bowl, combine the turkey, pork and seasonings. Toss well to distribute the seasonings evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes.

Push the chilled mixture through a meat grinder using the large-hole plate. (Alternatively, in batches, pulse in a food processor with the stainless-steel blade until coarsely but evenly chopped.)

Transfer to an electric mixer and, using the paddle attachment at lowest speed, mix for 1 minute; increase the speed to medium, slowly pour in the stock, and mix 2 minutes more; then switch to high and mix 30 seconds. (Alternatively, in batches, pulse in the stock in the processor.)

To form a sausage, place a 12-by-16-inch (30-by-40-cm) piece of plastic wrap on a work surface. About 6 inches (15 cm) from one narrow end, place 1 cup (250 ml) of the mixture. Fold the 6 inches (15 cm) of wrap over it, and pat into an 8-by-1 1/2-inch (20-by-4-cm) cylinder. Roll up tightly and knot the ends to seal in the meat. Securely wrap again in aluminum foil. Repeat with the remaining mixture to form 6 sausages. Refrigerate.

For the peppers and onion, heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the garlic and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the peppers, onions, sugar, paprika and bay leaves. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Stir in the basil.

When the pepper-onion mixture starts cooking, prepare the Court Bouillon: Cut the vegetables into 1/4-inch (6-mm) slices and put them in a large saucepan. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for 20 minutes.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the wrapped sausages. Cook until firm, 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon or wire skimmer, remove the sausages. Leave at room temperature until cool enough to handle. Carefully remove the foil and plastic wrappers.

Preheat a grill, broiler, heavy skillet, or griddle. Slice open each roll like a book. Brush the cut sides with olive oil and toast on the heated cooking surface. If you like, spread with mustard.

Brown the sausages, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes. On a cutting board and, cut each diagonally into 1-inch (2.5-cm) pieces. Divide half of the pepper-onion mixture among the bottom halves of the rolls. Add the sausage pieces and top with the remaining peppers and onions. Serve immediately.

(Chef Wolfgang Puck’s TV series, “Wolfgang Puck’s Cooking Class,” airs Sundays and Wednesdays on the Food Network. Write Wolfgang Puck in care of Tribune Media Services Inc., 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY. 14207.

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