Mystery Meat

I can not emphasis enough the virtues of labeling things when you put them in the freezer.

Not only for the obvious “eat/cook by date” but for the “what actually is this?”

Recently I pulled out some sort of hot-dog/sausage looking package out of my freezer and wished I had labeled it.

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I am sure at the time I was all like “oh I will throw this in and will defiantly remember it because it’s special.”

2 months later… (let’s be honest it could have been 2 weeks later) and I can’t remember what sort of local sourced, handcrafted, all natural, no nitrates “hot dog or sausage” thing this was!

So after defrosting I had to start with the basic question of “is this a raw product or fully cooked?”

Taking no chances, I sliced and cooked one to be sure. After tasting it I still had no clue.

Here is the information for analysis: firm texture, not very salty, mild flavor – possibly an all beef product. It was not as “pink” as it appears in the photo – probably due to lack of Nitrites*. Hubby doesn’t get along with Nitrites so I often avoid them in sausage products anyway. If anybody has any ideas out there, by all means I am taking suggestions as I would like to remember so I can maybe get them again – they were tasty!

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*Nitrates and nitrites are frequently added to processed meats like bacon, ham, sausages and hot dogs. They function as preservatives, helping to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. They also add a salty flavour and improve the appearance of the meat products by giving them a red or pink color.
Info Credit: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/are-nitrates-and-nitrites-harmful

 

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Home Opener- A Day Later

ready for the grill

Home opener for the Red Sox was yesterday – Home opener for my grill was today!

Both have some meaning around here. Red Sox means crowded subway lines during games and neon colored tags on ladies purses worn as a small badge of pride that they were recently at a game. Home opener for my backyard grill means an entire category of cooking opens up after along winter of “same old same old.”

I was planning on cheeseburgers but since I had the grill on I decided to throw on a few other items I had kicking around in my fridge – creating the “trifecta” of baseball grill food: sausage, hot dogs and burgers.

I did put a twist on things by not just making any old cheeseburger, but a green chili cheese sauce burger. (on toasted English muffin cause everyone knows they make the best rolls!)

green chili cheeseburger.jpg

A green chili cheese sauce can easily be made by melting 2 tablespoons of butter with 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour, creating a roux. Add in about a cup of milk whisking constantly till thick. A pinch of seasoned salt and some black pepper to season. Add in 2 slices of provolone cheese and about 4 oz mild cheddar cheese. Whisk in a few dashes of the green Tabasco® sauce and about 2 oz of chopped green chilies (this is half of the small can – if you want to use the whole can, double the other ingredients and make a big batch of cheese sauce for a crowd!)

Serve warm drizzled over burgers, nacho chips or just about anything!

Neighbors

Isn’t it amazing how great neighbors can make all the difference?

Not only can I depend on them for great conversation over the fence, help snow-blowing the driveway, great cupcakes or the comfort in the knowledge that they would call the fire department should they see smoke, but recently… dinner. And not just any dinner. Home-smoked sausage and kielbasa, with sautéed peppers, and rolls to put it all on!  All packaged and waiting for me after a long day at work!

neighbor dinner

Notice they even put up the flag on the box to alert us of our “special mail!”

My husband and I immediately assembled a sandwich and gobbled it down, forgetting to take another photo of the sandwich itself. But trust me, it was a looker!

THANK YOU GREAT NEIGHBORS!!

The Sausage “Gal”

If you are ever in Boston and happened to catch a Red Sox game than of course you would have enjoyed a delicious sausage sandwich from The Sausage Guy! (well maybe not this year :()

For anybody who may be unaware of this delicacy (gasp!) – this is an Italian style sausage (hot or sweet) grilled “low and slow” with sliced peppers and onions, served on a soft Italian roll. Purists tend to not put on any condiments, but yellow mustard is acceptable. Anything else and you are clearly from out-of-town.

Sausage was a favorite of my father’s and I inherited the love for “encased meat.” I am sure my future cholesterol levels will reflect this someday but for now I will enjoy it while I still can.

Such an easy thing to recreate in your own kitchen, in fact even easier on the grill! Plus I “stepped” out a bit and actually put a little “char” on the peppers – they are usually cooked on a flat-top or pan.

I happened to use yellow/green bell peppers, but red and green are a bit more traditional. A little time directly on the grill and then into the pan with the onions to finish cooking.

Nothing brings the neighbors (and your husband) out of the house faster than recreating the smell of Yawkey Way!

So next time the game is on, fire up your grill and get the sausages on. Be sure to toast the rolls and personally I like a little cheese on mine…you know the kind that melts really well – nothing fancy.

And now the “beauty shot!”

Spring Training

It is only March in Massachusetts, so I am really not thinking about grilling yet. But the unseasonably warm weather we are having combined with the garlic-n-cheese sausage in the fridge are just begging me to fire up the grill.

So I figure I will go out there, throw off the cover and see if it starts. If it does than I will consider it a sign of good luck and grill the sausages. No need to wait until the regular summer season.

Oh it fired right up. That is for sure.

In fact it fired right up into the sky. Don’t worry there were no explosions – just a grease fire. I remember now that last fall was going to be the last time I used the grill until I serviced it.  READ: CLEAN IT!  It needed to have the grease tray emptied and new flame-tamers installed. And I was too lazy to do that in the fall. Besides in true New England style, I probably thought as I grilled my patties on a beautiful October afternoon, “I will do it next weekend” and then… we probably got a foot of snow. Oh wait we did!  Halloween weekend. Welcome to New England!

But I didn’t remember any of that until I looked out my kitchen window the other night to see the whole grill practically engulfed! I didn’t worry for the house as we keep it a safe distance away. I didn’t worry about the neighbors calling the fire department. (They weren’t home, thankfully.) I only worried for my precious sausage and was completely thankful that I hadn’t put the burgers on yet! Typical foodie, always thinking about the food!

Anyway, I ran out and cut the gas supply (safety first) and carefully looked under the hood. To my relief the sausages had survived quite well. I moved things around with my 4 foot long tongs and when the grease fire died down a bit, I put the burgers on like no big deal.

Here is the funny part.

I was able to cook the burgers and finish the sausage without ever turning the gas back on. The grease fire in the bottom kept humming for just the right amount of cooking time!

Now if only I can remember not to use the grill again during the next “warm snap” in April…

Production notes:

The pasta salad was a last-minute creation. It was delicious and completely non-reproducible due to the use of one unique ingredient along with the elbow noodles, shredded carrot, diced sweet red bell pepper, diced scallions and tiny diced hot red Fresno pepper…

… I used up the last half of a jar of homemade giardiniera – you the stuff that makes “Chicken Vesuvio” so good! (and of course everything is better with a little grated cheese!)

Too bad I have no idea who gave me the jar….

“Restaurant Style”

Lately I have been trying to improve my “plating” as the fancy chefs would say.

You know when it actually looks pretty on the plate as well as tasting good too.

So recently when I presented this dish to my husband, I was particularly pleased to hear him say “this looks like a restaurant dish!”

Spicy stuffed chicken breasts served with cilantro rice and sliced avocados.

This dish was result of avocados being on sale ($1 each!) and having tons of cilantro hanging around from another recipe as well as defrosted chicken breasts begging for interest.

I cut big pockets in each chicken breast (they happen to be really huge ones) and stuffed them with a combination of a few things I had on hand:

6 “skinny” pork sausage (looks like breakfast style but they are not that flavor) removed from their casing.

1 tbl “33rd & Galena” spice rub from Penzeys.

12 dried apricots, diced small – I did not soak them first.

Mix all of that together and stuff inside the chicken pocket. Place the stuffed breast on a lightly sprayed baking sheet and sprinkle on top a little more of the spice rub. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 mins or so until chicken reaches proper temperature. (165 degrees F)

I “basted” the breast with the juice/fat that the sausage filling let out as it cooks to keep things moist up top.

I served this with rice fancied up with cilantro and diced red bell pepper and of course the avocados simply sliced.

Classic with a Twist

Shepard’s pie was a staple growing up. In fact while some would claim macaroni and cheese as their childhood comfort food, I would actually say this was my favorite childhood comfort food. And still is today. And of course the school lunch program had it at least once a week.

If you are not familiar with “shepard’s pie” perhaps you would recognize it by some of its other names; “Chinese pie” or “cottage pie.”

Whatever you call it there are basic characterizations: meat on the bottom, veggie in the middle and mashed potato topping. A fine casserole indeed.

You can read a cute blog entry about it here and also there is a good classic recipe shown as well. (Although I never put peas in mine and never eat it with ketchup.)

The other night I made this classic with a twist.

In true cabinet stew mentality I was using up what I had in the fridge, freezer and cabinets. So that turned out to be some Italian “pepper and onions” sausage, frozen spinach and potatoes.

I baked the potatoes in the morning while I was doing other things so I could just peel and mash later. Easy and I hate peeling and boiling potatoes for mashed!

Although I took the spinach out and let it sit to defrost in a strainer earlier in the day, I didn’t really make too much effort there. A good mash with a spoon before I used it to get some of the water out.

When dinner time came around all I did was slip the sausage out of their casing and brown them in a pan. They already had tons of seasoning and fat so that was easy too.

Layer the browned, crumbled sausage down first. Mix the spinach with a little salt, pepper, grated nutmeg and grated Romano (just because I am a cheese freak) and layer that on top of the meat. Then I mashed my potatoes with melted butter, warm milk , salt and pepper and layered that on top. A dusting of paprika (traditional) and more grated Romano. (not as traditional)

30 mins in a 350 degree oven and we had a quick, delicious, classic casserole with a twist or maybe just a cabinet stew!