My Favorite Things

My Favorite Things beautifully played by very young Mark Schatz, Tony and Wyatt Rice.

This month my favorite thing has been sausage, sausage and more sausage. Thanks to our Charcutepalooza challenge, I got to make more sausage in one day than I’ve made in my whole life. I’ve made breakfast sausage a couple of times and I’ve ground my own beef on more than one occasion but this time I was able to do a bit of reaching and stretching because…I had a partner in crime! Now my usual overachieving, obsessive, excessive tendencies could really get out of control.

Mom was here for what we thought was a nice long visit but that week went by in an even bigger flash than usual. She has been my most devoted reader so it was only right that she should experience as many of my wild and crazy Year In Meat adventures as possible. We had Bucatini all’ Amatriciana, we made biscuits and tucked slices of tasso in them, we had kimchi in our Korean rice bowls, we made mozzarella for our homemade pizzas, we made English muffins and indulged in some of my bacon for breakfast one day and a slice of fatty another. We also went to the farmer’s market to pick up a 9 pound pork butt and a giant pack of creamy white pork fat.

After dicing up that beautiful butt, I had about 7 1/2 pounds of meat so, in my infinite wisdom, I decided that since I didn’t really need that much chorizo at one time, we should try some other flavors. After all, it’s just some different seasoning so how much extra work can it be? Meguez wasn’t an option because I couldn’t get my hands on any local lamb so we decided on chorizo to satisfy the challenge requirements and tossed in sweet Italian sausage and Greek loukaniko for good measure. Next time I think we’ll tackle one sausage at a time. Thank goodness we were organized and had lots of blue tape to label all of the bowls of meat and spices so we didn’t wind up with sweet Italian chorizo.

We stuck pretty close to Michael Ruhlman’s recipes for the chorizo and Italian sausage but tweaked the seasoning a bit to suite our taste. The original recipes were a tad salty so next time we’ll trim back on the salt a little bit. We liked more garlic, oregano, pepper and cumin than the original chorizo recipe called for. We also wanted extra basil, oregano, fennel seeds, pepper and vinegar in the Italian sausage and decided we liked the herbs ground in a coffee grinder first so they distribute more evenly throughout the meat. The loukaniko was more of a challenge but we were very happy with our finished product.

Getting our spices together

Pork fat for all my friends!

Sausage makin' Mama!

Loukaniko

3 lb cold pork shoulder in 1-inch dice

1 lb cold pork back fat in 1-inch dice

1 T salt

1 T each oregano, coriander and allspice

2 tsp thyme

4 tsp black pepper

1 1/2 T garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

zest from 1 large orange

2/3 cup chilled red wine

Grind all herbs together in a coffee grinder. Toss all ingredients together except red wine. Chill thoroughly, grind into a bowl sitting in a bowl of ice water. Use paddle attachment on mixer to beat wine into chilled ground pork. Beat for about 2-3 minutes until it comes together, the wine is incorporated and the meat has a sticky texture. Saute a small piece, taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Who says you shouldn’t play with your food? Now it’s time to do just that!

Stuff a chunk of cheese inside of a sausage ball

Apply fire

Have a squirt bottle of water nearby- a large one! All of that gorgeous pork fat definitely adds fuel to the fire. Next, make a little quickie marinara sauce to dip the Italian sausage into and feta and roasted red bell pepper dip for the Loukaniko. Normally I would have crumbled up some feta and beaten in a little olive oil to make it nice and creamy before stirring in 3-4 pureed red bell peppers and a little roasted garlic but I was trying to find a use for some verrry soft feta cheese that I made a few weeks ago. It went into the brine nice and firm but proceeded to soften into feta goo. It was very tasty feta goo, but goo nonetheless. This is not my first batch of feta goo, either so I’ve gotten pretty good at finding uses for it. This was pretty tasty and made a great salad dressing, too.

Since we were in charge of snacky food for a little Sunday afternoon get-together I figured it was a good time to share my sausage making bounty. Three flavors of sausage balls seemed a little redundant and I wanted to do something special with the chorizo since it was the whole reason we had ventured into sausage making territory anyway. I couldn’t see anybody I know turning up their noses at fresh chorizo, roasted pepper strips and lots of ooey gooey melted cheese so Queso Fundido was my choice to show off the chorizo.

Brown about 3/4 lb of chorizo, breaking it up into small pieces as it cooks. Remove from pan and add half of a large onion, diced. When in has softened, add roasted pepper strips. I used what I had on hand and my choices were getting a little slim because I’ve been trying to use everything I put up last year. This wound up being 2 roasted red bell peppers, a couple of poblanos, a couple of sweet long peppers and 4-5 roasted jalapenos that I froze at the end of the season last year. Grate 8 ounces of cheese.

Colby & extra sharp cheddar waiting with the sausage balls and feta goo!

Top the hot sausage, pepper and onion mixture with the cheese and put in a 350 oven just until the cheese melts. I served it with my new favorite chips- sweet potato tortilla chips.

Party time!

The general consensus was that it was the best Italian sausage ever and when am I going to make more, the queso fundido rocked and the loukaniko was good but “different”. I’m interpreting that as “different” in a good way since there were only 2 left.

Chorizo is not just for parties, either. It seemed fitting to end the month of sausage with sausage so we had scrambled eggs and some home fries with chorizo for breakfast yesterday. The sweet potato chips were so good with the queso fundido that I decided to throw some in with my Yukon golds for the home fries (plus I didn’t have enough of the Yukon golds).

It didn't suck!

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