03 August 2006

I am happy that I am not a sausage.

At times, I have noted to myself that I wouldn’t mind being a tad more photogenic, but then when I think of how un-photogenic a sausage is, I feel rather stunning in comparison. A few days ago, as I attempted to photograph some leftover sausages and plums braised in red wine, I felt a refreshing sense of gratitude that I was born a human being and not a sausage. It’s not just the unsightliness of sausages that causes these feelings of thankfulness and joy. There exist many other reasons, including (but not limited to): sausages are made of ground meat and I’m not, sausages are usually 1 inch x 1 inch x 4 inches and I’m not, sausages are encased in pig instestines and I'm not, and sausages can’t read and I can. Those are my main reasons that I am happy I am not a sausage.

Have you ever tried to photograph leftover sausages? I would imagine that the number of people in the world who have tried to do this is 43, plus or minus 16, and the number of people who have successfully tried to do this is 7, plus or minus 7.

Hence, the photo shoot did not last very long. I fired my models, and then I ate them. They were not beautiful, no they weren’t, but they were delicious.

Sausages and Plums Braised in Red Wine…not the prettiest dish. Some may say that about me, but whatevs, I’m already married so I don’t need to be hot. (Right, my love?)

A photo of a photo by Gentl & Hyers. The photographer of this dish was more
succesful than I in capturing the mouth-watering essence of
Sausages and Plums Braised in Red Wine.
That's why you get to see the photo in the cookbook and not my photo.

This recipe is from Molly Stevens’ All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking, the cookbook I got when I mercilessly returned Tyler Florence’s cookbook. Molly Stevens is a wonderful and marvelous cookbook writer. Her introduction moved me to tears (seriously) and her recipes, come braising season, will most likely do the same. Tears of joy. Tears of tasty, braised joy, simmered for hours at low temperatures and tenderized in thier own juices.

Sausages and Plums Braised in Red Wine
by Molly Stevens
(I copied this recipe from her website because her writing is so clear and detailed. I hope I don’t get in trouble. I also hope you try to make these sausages. )

As you’re cutting up the plums for this recipe, taste a piece. If the plums are on the sour side (as some early-season varieties are), add a pinch of sugar to the braise to bring out their sweetness. If plums aren’t in season make the dish with grapes (see the variation that follows). Since there’s no stock in the braising liquid to round out the flavor of the wine, it’s important here to use a wine that really tastes good to you. I particularly like using a lightly fruity but dry Beaujolais—a real Beaujolais, not the raw-tasting Nouveau Beaujolais that shows up every November.
Serve with polenta or sautéed potatoes and a baguette or other crusty bread to sop up every last bit of the gorgeous magenta-hued sauce. It’s too good to leave any behind. Pass a simple tossed arugula or spinach salad at the table.

1 pound ripe purple or red plums, such as Santa Rosa or Italian (or grapes, see variation that follows)
1 3/4 to 2 pounds sweet Italian sausages (with or without fennel seed)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, minced (about 3 scant tablespoons)
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh sage or 1/2 teaspoon rubbed
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of sugar, if needed
2/3 cup light, fruity dry red wine, such as Beaujolais, Dolcetto, or Pinot Noir

1. The plums: Working over a bowl to collect the juices, cut the plums into 1/2-inch wedges, tasting a piece to judge their sweetness, and letting them drop into the bowl. If the plums are not freestone, you’ll have to cut the flesh away from the pits with a knife. Set aside.

2. Browning the sausages: If the sausages are linked together, separate the links with a sharp paring knife or a pair of scissors. Prick each link in several places with the tip of a sharp knife (this will prevent the sausages from exploding). Heat the oil in a large lidded skillet or shallow braising pan (12-inch is a good choice) over medium-high heat until the oil slides easily across the pan. Add the sausages and fry them, turning frequently with tongs, until a medium brown crust has formed on at least three sides, 10 to 12 minutes total. Using tongs, so as not to pierce the casings further, transfer the sausages to a large plate, without stacking.

3. The aromatics: Depending on how fatty the sausages are, there may or may not be an excess of fat in the pan. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon, return the pan to medium heat, and add the shallot. Stir immediately with a wooden spoon, and sauté just until the shallot begins to brown, about 1 minute. Add the garlic and sage, stir again, and sauté until fragrant, another 30 seconds or so. Add the plums and all of their juices. Season with salt, pepper, and pinch of sugar if the plums tasted tart. Stir and sauté until the juices begin to sizzle, about 2 minutes.

4. The braising liquid: Pour in the wine, increase the heat to medium-high, and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom of the pan to dislodge any precious cooked-on bits that will enrich the flavor of the braising liquid. Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes to meld the flavors some.

5. The braise: Return the sausages to the pan, nestling them down so they are surrounded by the plums. Add any juices that may have accumulated on the plate. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to a very gentle simmer. Check after 5 minutes to make sure that the wine is not simmering too excitedly. If it is, lower the heat or put a heat diffuser beneath the pan. Continue braising gently, turning the sausages after 15 minutes, until the sausages are cooked all the way through, 25 to 30 minutes total. Check for doneness by piercing a sausage with a skewer or meat fork to see if the juices run clear. If you are unsure, nick a sausage with a small knife and peer inside to see that there is no pink left.

6. The finish: Transfer the sausages with tongs to a serving platter. Lift the plums from the pan with a slotted spoon and arrange them around the sausages. Cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Return the braising liquid to the stove. Taste and evaluate the sauce. Depending on how juicy the plums and sausages were, you may or may not need to reduce the sauce: it should be the consistency of a thick vinaigrette. If necessary, bring to a strong simmer over medium-high heat, and simmer for 2 to 4 minutes to thicken and concentrate the flavor. I don’t bother skimming this sauce, since the fat from the sausages is integral in balancing the taste, but it never tastes oily or fatty. Taste for salt and pepper. The sauce is meant to be slightly sharp to offset the rich taste of the pork sausage. Pour the sauce over the sausages and plums, and serve.


Cherry said...

Now I want to go braise me up some sausage and try to photograph them.

You're photos are beautiful. I have always struggled with capturing my work.

aria said...

heee-HEE, your blog is halarious. i am right there with ya, recently had a disasterous photoshoot with a meatball. that bastard was so demanding and he didn't even pony up. here he is acting less than profesional http://passionatenonchalance.com/gallery/food/meatballs

LB said...

This sounds so tasty that I'm going to try it with vegetarian Italian sausage. Wish me luck!

Erielle said...

Cherry~ thanks! I actually didn't take the sausage pictures. They were from the cookbook. Mine were way too ugly.

Aria~ Thank you so much! I think the meatball still looks yummy, even if he was misbehaving. I'd eat him in a second.

LB~ Good luck! Let me know how it turns out!