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.
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!
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.