Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Pan Fried Italian Sausages with Charred Peppers + Onions on a bed of Creamy Parmesan Polenta

Pan Fried Italian Sausages with Charred Peppers + Onions on a bed of Creamy Parmesan Polenta
This is a dish I have never made before, seeing that it's an Italian staple, and I'm not the biggest fan for Italian food, it makes perfect sense that I wouldn't concoct a recipe for Sausage with Peppers + Onions. But, guess what... we all loved it, even me!! We're huge sausage people over here... any kind, any brand, any flavor... you name it, we want it. I especially love Al Fresco's Chicken Sausage; I decided that the best choice would be their Sweet Italian Style. But really, you could sub in any kind of Italian sausage, even a spicy one if you so please. It really doesn't matter what you end up using, as long as they are cooked up perfectly until they are golden brown, slightly charred, and crisped on the outside. The pan fried sausages are nestled on top of a bed of creamy parmesan polenta and charred peppers + onions. So let's start with the polenta first because who doesn't want extra cheesy polenta to chow down? These are perfectly seasoned in every which way and they are a cinch to make! Although the consist of mainly freshly grated parmesan, I wanted to add some shredded fontina to balance out the flavor and give them that little extra boost of cheese flavor! I'm tellin' y'all, every single one of us was moaning and groaning over this polenta... it was that good. I can't wait to use it in more of my recipes in the future, so keep that in your back pocket. Next, come the charred peppers + onions. I tried to used as many colors as I could get my hands on, so I grabbed 2 red onions, 1 red bell pepper, 1 orange bell pepper, 1 yellow bell pepper, and 1 green bell pepper. Now if you hate red onions, you can switch out another type of onion instead. If you can't find all four colors of bell peppers, just use what your local grocery store is carrying. No biggie! I have a somewhat strange, unorthodox method to cooking and charring the peppers + onions, so hear me out. I begin by sautéing them in some butter and olive oil, and then braise them in a sweetened red wine + red wine vinegar mixture. While they are cooking and the liquid is reducing, it is important that you keep an out on the veggies because you want them still quite crunchy before the next step. Now, here's where it might get weird for some of y'all. I like to pour the whole put into a strainer (placed over the sink) and allow all of the braising liquid to drip off. I even use some paper towels to dry them as much as I can before it's second stage of cooking. Don't worry though, your peppers will still have plenty of flavor; this step is important because you need dried veggies in order to get all of those wonderful charred edges. Secondly, you gotta have a dry cast iron skillet because that is how you achieve the blackening phase. So, put that sucker on high heat and add the dried peppers + onions in the screamin' hot pan and add in the minced garlic, Italian seasoning, a pinch of sugar, crushed red pepper flakes, kosher salt, and fresh cracked pepper. Toss to combine the vegetables with all of the seasonings, and once they have reached an al dente texture and a charred exterior, throw in some fresh mixed herbs for a little fresh bite. Now all that's left of the recipe is to begin assembling. I like to serve this in bowls, starting with a few big ladles of the cream parmesan polenta and some more freshly grated parmesan for good measure. Then you make a mound of your charred peppers + onions, so that your pan fried Italian sausages have a bed to rest on. We decided that we wanted a sweet + spicy dish, so we drizzled some white balsamic reduction over the top and garnished it with a sprinkling of dried red pepper flakes and fresh mixed herbs (think basil, parsley, chives, and oregano) to finish off the dish. This is a great weekday or Sunday supper, and also, a perfect hearty meal for this time of the year!! Enjoy :)

For the Pan Fried Italian Sausages:
8 Italian Sausage Links (We love Al Fresco’s Sweet Italian Style Chicken Sausage)
2T Unsalted Butter + 1T EVOO

For the Charred Peppers + Onions:
2T Unsalted Butter + 2T EVOO
1-2 Red Onions, Sliced (we like a lot of onion, so we used two)
4 Bell Peppers, Sliced into Strips (we used 1 of each color: red, orange, yellow, + green)
¼C Red Wine + ½C Red Wine Vinegar
1-2T Light Brown Sugar
4 Garlic Cloves, Minced
2t Italian Seasoning
A Heavy Pinch of Sugar ( to help the blackening process)
½-1t of Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (depending on how hot you like it)
Fleur de Sel + Fresh Cracked Pepper, To Taste
1-2T Mixed Fresh Herbs (we used basil, parsley, chives, andR
4C Unsalted Chicken Stock (homemade or store-bought)
2 Large Cloves of Garlic, Minced
1C Stone-Ground Cornmeal
1T Kosher Salt + 1t Fresh Cracked Pepper
1C Freshly Grated Parmesan
4oz Fontina Cheese, Shredded
¼C Crème Fraiche
4T Unsalted Butter
¼-½C Heavy Cream or Milk (to thin it out to your desired thickness) 
1-2T Mixed Fresh Herbs (we used basil, parsley, chives, + oregano)   

For the Sausage + Peppers with Parmesan Polenta:
Prepared Parmesan Polenta
Freshly Grated Parmesan, For Garnishing
Prepared Charred Peppers + Onions
Pan Fried Italian Sausages, Browned + Crisped
Homemade or Store-Bought White Balsamic Reduction, For Drizzling
Mixed Fresh Herbs, For Garnishing (same mixture of herbs used above)

1. For the Pan Fried Italian Sausages: Melt the butter and EVOO in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, and then add in half of the sausages. Brown on all sides, about 8-12 minutes total, until they are golden brown yet slightly blackened in color. Remove the crisped sausages from the pan onto a plate and cover them with aluminum foil so that they stay warm while you cook the remaining half of the sausages (by following the same process as before). Make sure to keep them warm until you are ready to serve the dish.
2. For the Charred Peppers + Onions: In a large skillet, over high heat, melt together the butter and EVOO. Add in the red onion and multicolored pepper slices. Toss to coat them in the oil, along with some kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper, and sauté for about 5-10 minutes. Pour in the red wine and red wine vinegar to deglaze the pan. Add in the brown sugar and cook for a few more minutes until the wine has reduced by half. Get a large strainer and place it over your sink, pour the red wine braised peppers + onions into the strainer, so that all of the excess liquid is removed. Once all the liquid has dripped off, get a few pieces of paper towels and dry the peppers + onions are completely dried off. This is an important step because it will help you to obtain a perfect char (also make sure to completely wipe out all remaining liquid/moisture/butter/oil from the pan). With the skillet still on high heat, return the dried peppers + onions to the wiped down pan and let them vegetables char, making sure to stir them around for even browning. You want your peppers to be al dente in texture and blackened on the edges for color (so, make sure your pan is completely dry to obtain this component of the recipe). Add in the minced garlic, Italian seasoning, a heavy pinch of sugar, crushed red pepper flakes, and salt + pepper to taste. Cook again, while tossing to combine the seasonings with vegetables, for a minute or two, making sure that the minced garlic doesn’t burn. Once the peppers + onions are done, do a quick taste test and add in any necessary seasoning to your preferred taste (for example: kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and/or sugar). After you have done the taste test and love the flavor, stir in the fresh herbs and keep this mixture ready until you are ready to assemble.
3. For the Creamy Parmesan Polenta: In a large pot, pour in the chicken stock and add in the minced garlic. Cook over medium-high heat until the stock comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and very slowly whisk in the cornmeal, whisking constantly to make sure there are no lumps. Switch to a wooden spoon and add in the kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Simmer, while stirring constantly, for 10-12 minutes or until they are thick. Be sure the scrape the bottom of the pan thoroughly while you’re stirring. Move the pan off the heat and mix in the freshly grated Parmesan, shredded fontina cheese, crème fraiche, butter, and fresh herbs. If this mixture becomes to thick (either by overcooking or allowing it to sit too long), stir in some of the heavy cream/milk to loosen it again. Taste for seasonings and serve it immediately.
4. Assembling the Dish: Ladle some of the Creamy Parmesan Polenta into the bottom of a serving bowl and freshly grate some more Parmesan over of the polenta. Using a spoon or tongs, make a mound of the charred peppers + onions on top of the polenta. Place two links of pan fried Italian sausages (per bowl, per person) in the middle of the vegetable bed and drizzle the surface of the dish with a little bit of the white balsamic reduction (this is optional, but we like the sweetness of the reduction against the saltiness of the polenta). Garnish with fresh mixed herbs and enjoy while it’s still hot!!

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