mercoledì 16 gennaio 2013

Baked sausages, fennel, and red potatoes

(Cliccate qua per la versione italiana.)

Before the cookbooks of Marcella Hazan, Italian-American restaurant cuisine consisted of 5 or 10 dishes, repeated over and over and over again ad infinitum ad nauseam.  One of these was sausages, green bell peppers, onions, and potatoes. I prefer starvation over this dish, especially because I don't like green bell peppers at all.  (Red ones are a different story.)

In the meantime, around the age of 20, I discovered the most magnificent vegetable in the whole world. One day, I was reading a biography on Enrico Caruo, written by his widow. I read that the Maestro's favorite vegetable was "raw fennel, which he ate like a fruit." I mentioned this fact to an old cousin. She responded, "Oh! Fennel is wonderful! It has a licorice flavor. It cleans the palate." Never having tried this vegetable, I decided to buy one. From that moment on, I was an addict.

Many years later, I was in the mood for sausages cooked in the oven. I had eaten only raw fennel (à la Caruso), but I wondered, "What would happen if I were to put in a roasting pan sausages, potatoes, onions, garlic, and ... fennel?"

The result was so splendid that it immediately became one of the most popular dishes in our home.


These are the proportions, which I always double or triple:

1 lb Italian sausages, cut in 1.5-2" pieces (I cut them with scissors)
1 large yellow onion, cut in 8
1 large bulb of fennel (the stalks and core removed), cut in 8
1 lb small red potatoes, cut in 4 (or 2 if they are very small)
2-3 cloves garlic, whole
crushed red pepper
freshly ground pepper
garden herbs (whichever you have)
a copious amount of extra-virgin olive oil (enough to cover all of it)

Unfortunately the small red potatoes I could not find today. Jeanette likes them for their texture; I like them because they don't take hours to soften. These great big potatoes that you see above were not ideal.


Place all the ingredients in a roasting pan. Cover it tightly with aluminum foil and bake it 425º for an hour (or more). Uncover it and bake it for another 15 minutes (or more), until the sausages reach the desired browning and the fennel and potatoes reach the desired softness.

After taking the above photo, I returned the pan to the over for still another 15 minutes.

The perfect accompaniment to this dish is "Alpine Spring," the seasonal beer of Samuel Adams. This great brewer is located right here in Boston, and their beers are world-class.


The leftovers of this exquisite dish are used for two other recipes, which are also scrumptious!

1. I strain the glorious contents of this roasting pan, collecting the heavenly liquid and keeping it in the fridge. Keep in mind that most of this light-green strutto or "schmalz" consists of olive oil. A pound of sausages and a pound of guanciale are two different things. Therefore, there is very little pork fat here.  It does not present the cardiological problem that lard presents! Anyhow, it was a very hot day in June of 2012. I was a little lazy from the Boston humidity. I didn't have the energy even to chop a garlic clove. I wondered, however, how spaghetti would be with this special strutto. I boiled the spaghetti, strained it, and added it to the strutto (which melted quickly — there was no need to melt it ahead of time).  I added some grated pecorino.  THAT'S IT.  I swear to you, I didn't add another single thing — not even a grain of black pepper, nothing.  Spaghetti, strutto, pecorino. The taste was so outrageously good that Jeanette and I could not devour it quickly enough. It is the simply dish I ever invented, and surely the most delicious one.

2. One day I made fried zucchini blossoms. There was quite a bit of flour and egg left over. I had no other vegetables or meats in the fridge to fry. But I remembered that I had leftovers of the sausages and fennel in the fridge. I prepared the fennel in the same way that I make zucchini blossoms — in batter, a couple of minutes per side, and voilà! An extraordinary taste.

For the batter there are little variations.  Above, I made a simple one.  I beat the egg, dipped the fennel pieces in the egg, covered them with flour, then salt, pepper, and I fried them in olive oil for 1-2 minutes per side.  Another batter that I make often is even more delicious.  Beat the egg.  In the beaten egg add milk, grated cheese, salt, pepper, and fresh chopped parsley. Put the vegetable (or the blossoms) in the flour, then in this liquid.  Then fry them in oil until golden, and buon appetito!  Then, the leftover egg and liquid make a delicious fritter, almost like a pancake. 

3 commenti:

  1. I made this the other night and it was outstanding.

    1. Thank you, Cindy! Did the recipe work as is (every oven being different, etc. etc.)? Were the fennel and potatoes soft enough?

    2. My husband said it was his ideal meal. Everything worked as stated, the potatoes and fennel were cooked thoroughly after 1 hour and 15 minutes. The only problem was that I clearly did not use enough olive oil because I did not have enough schmaltz leftover for pasta. I will make certain not to make that mistake the next time.