Six Pounds of Sausage

Now before all of the requisite jokes (I’m looking at you, Tre) let me explain myself. Some (my husband, for example) may describe me as an impulsive shopper. This generally works out well when food shopping. I enjoy my Saturday morning visits to the Reading Terminal where I peruse the aisles of Iovine’s determining what looks good, what’s on sale and what’s seasonal. My weekly menu planning is generally determined by my market finds and I rarely walk into my shopping ventures with a list. OK, sometimes I come home with a random mix of items from Asian eggplants to kirby cucumbers (I’m going to pickle them, I SWEAR) and $1/head cauliflower that’s starting to go but it will be ok if I roast it tonight! In the same vein, however, I’m a loyal shopper. I won’t shop at a different produce shop or butcher just because the prices are better.

Recently I decided that I was in the mood for chicken sausage.  I don’t often eat sausage because I was raised Jewish and tend to steer clear from pork.  My butcher, Harry Och’s, didn’t have any in stock so he directed me to the king of sausage, Martin’s, which was just steps away. I wandered over to Martin’s case and looked in awe at the myriad sausage varieties. I was immediately drawn to a chicken sausage with broccoli rabe and red pepper flakes. Yummy! And besides, it was on sale for $3.99/lb (down $1.) I asked for 8 links, which probably would have been about 3 pounds. While the man waiting on me did some calculations in his head, another older gentleman that works there was courting me in Italian “Ciao, Bella.” It was quite a scene. The butcher then informed me that he could save me some money if I wanted a 6 pound box of the same sausage for $18. $18?! That’s $1 savings per pound. I jumped on the opportunity and walked out the door with a huge box of sausage with visions of my already packed freezer dancing in my head.

The next morning I woke up and started preparations for crockpot sausage and peppers. I took the box of sausages out of the fridge and opened it up.

They look gorgeous, don’t they? But I was a little intimidated (that’s just the first layer.) I took about 10 links to brown before tossing them in the crock pot with a medley of peppers, onions and garlic with some canned crushed Tuttorosso tomatoes. They sell these in bulk at BJ’s and I go through them super quickly. Because I got started early, I was able to set the crock pot on low and forget about it all day long–until I heard the inevitable bubbling and the sausage aroma filled our house around 4pm.

My oldest friend, Alexandra, who was in town to care for her father who had taken ill, came over for dinner that evening. Ironically enough, Alexandra is a vegetarian so despite the vat of chicken sausage, her dinner was a slice of tomato tart tatin (I’ll save that for another post) and salad. Unfortunately, I was so distracted by our conversation that I didn’t get any pictures of the sausage and peppers. Not one shot! It was darn good, though. I sent Alexandra home with a tupperware stuffed with sausage & peppers to put into her father’s freezer so he would eat well when she went back to Florida. Overall, the remainders lasted us a couple days of lunches and dinner. There was even some sauce left over that I tossed in the freezer. More on that later.

A week or so later, it started to cool down and I hadn’t been to the market that week. I did a mental inventory of my freezer and cupboard and thought I’d throw together some sort of sausage soup. I was stuck on the idea of a tortellini sausage soup–who knows why–but didn’t have any tortellini. Instead, I remembered the red lentils I bought from International Food & Spices, the awesome Indian food market on Walnut Street. (Side note: they have great prices on bulk nuts.) I started playing around with my friend Google but wasn’t coming across anything appealing. Finally, after a few too many searches, I stumbled upon this recipe for red lentil soup with sausage and roasted peppers from a blog called “The Whole Kitchen.”  Well whaddya know. I had just roasted up some red peppers a day or two earlier.  Now, I’m not going to lie. Originally the idea of red peppers in this dish didn’t sound incredibly appealing to me and I probably wouldn’t have included them if I did not so fortuitously happen to have them in the fridge.

Red Lentil Soup with Chicken Sausage & Roasted Peppers

adapted from The Whole Kitchen

1 pound pork sausage (I used chicken sausage stuffed with broccoli rabe)
1 tsp oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 stalk celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
chili pepper flakes to taste
1 cup white wine (I used red because I didn’t have any white open)
1 1/3 cup red lentils ((I used closer to 1 1/2)
4 cups homemade chicken stock (I used boxed organic stock)
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 cups water
2 roasted red peppers, skins removed, seeded and sliced into bite sized pieces
2 bay leaves
1 T oregano
1 T red wine vinegar
1 parmigiano reggiano rind (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup parsley (chopped)

  1. Cook the sausage in a large pot, then drain the fat, scoop out the sausage and set aside. The original recipe didn’t specify if it was supposed to be sliced or crumbled. Therefore, I started with sliced and gradually transitioned to crumbled.
  2. Wipe out the pot, return to heat and add 1tsp oil. Add the onions, carrot and celery and and cook until the vegetables soften, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano and chili pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about a minute.
  3. Add the wine, sausage, lentils, chicken stock, water, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, bay leaves and parmigiano reggiano rind and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the lentils are tender about 30-45 minutes.
  5. Season with salt and pepper, remove from heat and mix in the parsley and red wine vinegar

Here’s how I did it…

Well, I typed that and then realized that I didn’t take any pictures. That might be a good thing, because it started to look pretty ugly around step 3. In fact, I was beginning to wonder if I had just ruined dinner. Hmm..ruining dinner isn’t the worst thing in the whole wide world because there’s always Los Jalapenos!

Anyway, the soup was really, really good. The roasted peppers in question added a sweet bite that was countered by the necessary tang of the red wine vinegar.  I will say that the broccoli rabe in the sausage added a great deal to the flavor (and appearance.) I was pretty darn proud of this soup and it was definitely a nice switch from my traditional chili for our fall and winter Sunday football meals.

And you thought that I was done? Nope, there was STILL sausage left over from the daunting six pounds. I was still marinating the idea of tortellini and thought of the won ton wrappers I had sitting in the fridge from my Asian market adventure with Tom Foodlery. My husband was working late so I thought I’d get to work. I had already sauteed up the remaining sausage, so it just needed a little gussying up

Now let’s see if I can remember what I added. One individual-sized container of cottage cheese (in place of the ricotta that I would have added if I had it), about a half cup of crushed tomatoes (Tuttorosso, duh), one egg, a sprinkling of parmesan cheese and probably some other stuff. But that’s all that I remember. I mixed it up well and then came the fun stuff. I broke out the won ton wrappers which are a GREAT ravioli/tortellini/etc/etc wrapper, by the way.

My intial plan was to make tortellini but that plan was quickly foiled and I set out to try my hand at ravioli. The wrappers were just a tough old and weren’t a big fan of sticking to one another so I set out for option 3–half moon ravioli otherwise known as agnolotti. I mixed a little water and egg white and set it aside as a sealant. Each wrapper got about two tablespoons of filling and was folded over and sealed with the water/egg white mixture. Then I tossed them all onto a heavily floured cookie sheet.

If you make these, it’s important to flour the sheet and the ravioli sufficiently so that they do not stick to one another. I snapped this shot before my final seal, but once they were all stuffed, I went back and prettied them up with the tines of a fork–this did double duty by resealing and making them a little nicer looking. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have some mistakes.

Luckily, most of them came out better than the above! I fixed the hole with a heavy application of water/egg white mixture and prayed that it would stay together while it cooked. I tossed them into some heavily salted boiling water and cooked until they rose to the top, about 4 minutes. I then placed them on a bed of baby arugula and topped with the left over sauce from the sausage and peppers the previous week–how’s that for utility! They were quite tasty–even my husband kept commenting on how good they were. In fact, he loved all iterations of the six pounds. I wonder which was his favorite?

I can’t wait to make these again. With the caveat that they are slightly time consuming, the actual dish is quite easy to make and, if I could be so humbled, I would say that they rival any nonna out there!

And that, my friends, is what you can do with six delightful pounds of chicken sausage!

Lobster Dinner

When one goes to New England, one must engage in typical New England behavior such as devouring enormous amounts of lobster and forgetting how to pronounce the letter “r” at the end of words such as chowder (chowdah) and bar (bah.) It’s truly a cultural experience. Although we have yet to indulge in lobster rolls (waiting for our side trip to Maine,) we perpetuated the tradition of a family lobster boil. It didn’t hurt that lobster (lobstah) currently stands at $4.99/lb which is UP one dollar from last week!

My husband and I volunteered to pick up the lobsters from one of the multitude of lobster retailers along the bay. We were directed to Captain Joe’s by my father-in-law. This is after we stopped to stock our cooler with ice and get cash from the ATM because the lobster shop was cash only, of course.

It was nice to have some sort of direction because there were tons of viable options along the bay, including a place that lured people in with the alluring scent of a smoker–a respectable side business. When we pulled into Joe’s, there were empty lobster pots stacked around the parking lot. Can’t get much more authentic than that.

We walked up to the garage-like building that butted the harbor.

Unassuming, right? And I didn’t even notice the Porta-Potty until I posted the picture. How appetizing. The structure had openings at both ends and you could see where the lobster boats unloaded right into Captain Joe’s garage. We walked towards the back of the room, wondering if we were doing the right thing. You don’t want to look like an outsider or tourist at a place like this. At the very back, right hand side of the room, sat about a dozen lobster tanks and two men occupying themselves with something, obviously lobster-related. I was trying to fit in and all so I didn’t blatantly take a picture of the set up, although I did take a quick shot of the “price list.”

It’s hard to read, but I kid you not when I say that the lobster were $4.99/lb. That’s right, kids. They were cheaper than steaks and even some fancy, Whole Foods chicken breasts. Lobstah!?!

OK, I lied. Apparently I took one quick picture of the lobster containers. This ain’t fancy, folks. The lobsters were divided by size and stored in these long containers.

Here is a view from the dock where they “receive” the lobster–I literally stood in the edge of the dock.

Because I’ve been trying to write this post for about a month now, I’m not going to get into the lengthy argument, ahem, conversation we had about the preparation of the lobster. I will say two things, however, There were a few strong opinions and one too many cooks in the kitchen. My husband’s aunt had recently read an article in Yankee Magazine with a different technique of cooking lobster. They advocated steaming them in a couple inches of very salty water instead of boiling them.  The recipe came from Bertha Nunan, owner of the Nunan’s Lobster Hut in Kennebunkport, Maine and my husband’s aunt was very emphatic that we try it. Bertha Nunan believes that boiling the lobster leaves the crustacean too soggy, while steaming it allows for the perfect consistency. As a former vegetarian who has a terrifying lobster slaughtering experience, I wasn’t a fan of steaming them. I was a fan of the quick and dirty boil–we’d put those little suckers out of their misery in a snap–but realized that there were two many opinions and retired to the deck with a book in hand.

A few minutes (and lots of talking, pots clanging and timers beeping) later, my father-in-law emerged with this:

The Nunan method was a success! The lobster was perfectly cooked and the heavily salted water imparted just a hint of ocean flavor to the meaty lobsters. We pounced on them with dishes of butter by our sides and this beautiful tomato salad compliments of my sister-in-law. We had corn too, but I was too busy with my lobster to grab a photo.

Brunch and Headhouse

Besides the fact that it’s the day before Monday, I tend to love Sundays.  My favorite kind of Sunday is the lazy kind with a world of possibility. In the fall and winter we have football season (more about that in a few months) where we’ll throw something on the stove or crockpot to simmer or braise away for a few hours until game time. From May-November, I am blessed with one of my favorite things of all time–Headhouse Square Market. Now, I love Farmers Markets and always have. I grew up in West Philly and have spent countless hours at the Clark Park’s farmers markets, flea markets and outdoor fairs. My husband and I try to give business to the small Wednesday market at the Fountain on Passyunk each week. However, nothing holds a candle to Headhouse. From the Sausage Truck (vegan sausage, anyone?!) to Talula’s Table and Griggstown, the Sunday market has everything I could possibly need. Sometimes–if we’re going on vacation or already have a full fridge–we don’t buy anything. We simply stroll under the shambles with our dog who SORELY misses the organic dog treat stand from last year!

Many Sunday visits to the shambles include brunch at the taco stand or the Sausage Truck. We’ll get our goods and sit on a stairwell while the dog begs for whatever we’re devouring. I usually end up tossing something her way, much to her delight. This morning, with the weather in our favor–we could eat outside with the dog–we decided to splurge on a real brunch.  Due to the ominous clouds above, we decided to hit up Hawthorne’s because it is close to our house and we figured we’d be able to get a table quickly. We got to Hawthorne’s and snagged up one of the last outdoor tables despite the host’s warning that it may start raining. We figured we’d order quickly and get our food to go if the skies opened up.

We’ve only been to Hawthorne’s once before and I had SOS (aka creamed chipped beef on toast.) As a former vegetarian, I had never eaten SOS but had always been intrigued. I figured it was time and quickly learned that I love SOS! For that reason, I was tempted to have the dish again (I tend to be a repeat orderer when it comes to something I like) but was drawn to a few other menu items, including the chicken salad sandwich on a baguette. I ended up going with the “Captain Ahab” platter of an everything bagel with lox, cream cheese, capers, red onions and mixed greens due to a recent lox craving. I couldn’t complain.

My husband ordered the “steak and eggs” which was a decent sized helping of braised beef with shirred eggs and a side of Claudio’s mozzarella and tomato salad. I didn’t get a chance to snap a picture before he dug in, but we also got an order of home fries to split. I like their home fries. Heavy on the rosemary and lots of fried pepper and onion. Yum!

My favorite part of the meal was the couple sitting across the way with their two dogs. Apparently one of them is a beer lover!

After brunch, the weather continued to work in our favor and we headed over to the Headhouse Market.  I’ve been drooling over a recipe for scalloped tomatoes/tomato bread pudding that I’ve seen in a number of iterations of the past week and knew that I wanted to get some fresh tomatoes so I could finally make it. We strolled under the shambles, checking out the vendors, including the largest and strangest looking squash I’ve ever seen from the Asian produce stand (sorry, no pictures) and allowing my dog to be center of attention. I walked away with a container of tomatoes and some corn with directions on how to keep it fresh. Apparently you are supposed to keep it damp in the fridge. Who knew? No wonder my corn has been drying out so quickly.