~ Soprano-Style Italian Sausage, Peppers & Onions, or: The Secret of the Sausage Sandwich Revealed ~
Today ends the saga of Joe's epic pepper harvest of 2011. Glean no negative connotations from this statement. I am not sick of peppers (just yet), but, after this post, the peppers are gone (in the nick of time). During the past week, I've posted my recipes for ~ Stuffed Peppers? Make Mine Poblanos Please! ~ (found in Categories 3, 13, 19 & 20), and, ~ Comfort Food Italian-Style: Chicken Cacciatore ~ (found in Categories 3, 12, 14, 17 & 22). Both of these pepper-lover meals are favorites of Joe's, but this simple one, his favorite, I intentionally saved for last:
If you were were a follower of the HBO hit series The Sopranos, and you drooled whenever Tony's crew ordered sausage "sangwitches" from Satriale's NJ pork store, you have a complete understanding of how near and dear these sandwiches are to any Italian heart!
For the record, "Italian sausage" is a term we Americans coined, meaning: In Italy, there is no product resembling our American version of Italian sausage. In Italy, the word implies cured meats like Genoa salami, mortadella, soppressata, etc. In the USA, it refers to coarsely ground pork sausage in natural casings, containing about 20%-25% fat and a distinct fennel flavor. It is sold raw (not cured or smoked) in 5"-6" links, coiled ropes or in loose burger-meat-type form.
Whether one is at the ballpark, a carnival or entering a shopping mall, you can't help but notice the line of customers in front of the street-vendor selling Italian sausage sandwiches. These succulent sausages, hot off the griddle, are placed on soft-medium-textured Italian rolls, then generously topped with a savory blend of sauteed peppers and onions. If you've ever eaten one of these sandwiches, you've also noted that they taste immensely better than the majority of home-prepared versions. Why is this? You are about to find out from me. But first:
WARNING: Sausage in this recipe refers exclusively to: pork sausage. Sausage containing chicken, turkey, vegetarian soy or byproducts therein are not considered or acknowledged to be "real" sausage in Melanie's Kitchen. Comments or questions regarding the substitution of these (or any other) sausage impostors thereof will not be replied to!
A sausage link or coil needs ample time to cook through, about 25-30 minutes, we all agree on this. That being said, a dry heat over this period of time, as in the case of a BBQ grill, is NEVER going to produce a succulent sausage with a golden-brown casing and that pop/snap/squirt of the the first bite, AS PICTURED HERE. Grilled sausage will be good, just not the best sausage you've tasted... unless that is the only way you've ever tasted it. Hear me out, and try this:
Note: In this picture, I placed 6 links of sweet sausage and 6 links of hot sausage in a 14" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides.
~ Step 2. Bring to a boil over high heat. Adjust heat to a steady simmer and continue to cook for about 20-22 minutes, or until almost all of the liquid has evaporated from the pan. Using a pair of tongs, NOT a fork (do NOT poke holes in the casings), turn the sausage over onto second side about halfway through the simmering process.
Note: This amount will vary, depending upon the size of your pan. Just be sure to add equal amounts of each and add enough to generously coat the bottom of the pan.
Note: While the sausage is sauteeing/browning, use a spatula to constantly keep pushing/moving the sausage around in the pan.
Cover the sausage with aluminum foil and set aside.
Note: The vegetables listed below can be prepped up to a day in advance or just before frying the sausage, BUT, they should not be sauteed until just before serving the sausage, as they tend to lose color and texture.
1 tablespoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons sea salt, more or less, to taste
2 pounds thinly-sliced yellow or sweet onion
1 pound thinly-sliced green bell pepper
1 pound thinly-sliced red bell pepper
~ Step 7. Adjust heat to saute until the vegetables are softened, just cooked through and still quite colorful, about 6-8 minutes. Do not overcook. Turn the heat off but do not remove pan from stovetop.
~ Step 8. Return the sausage to the pan, cover and set aside about 5-10 minutes, or just enough to reheat the sausages a bit. To serve:
~ Step 9. Slice the best quality Italian rolls money can buy. Generously spoon some of the warm vegetable mixture into the bottom of each roll. Add a sausage to each sandwich and top with another scoop of vegetables. In Melanie's Kitchen, we like to wrap each sandwich in aluminum foil and set them aside for 2-3 minutes, to give the roll a bit of time to steam/soften & soak up the juices!
Special Equipment List: large skillet w/lid, sized according to how much sausage is being cooked; tongs; spatula; aluminum foil; cutting board; chef's knife
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)