Friday, January 26, 2007


Sausage is my favorite pizza topping (and a favored ingredient in general, as you may have noticed), but its fat content and occasional textural issues (odd pieces of gristle) skeeve me out. I’ve sampled a few different brands and settled on Trader Joe’s as the best quality and value, but they only carry sweet Italian sausage, not spicy. I add red pepper flakes for extra spice, but the flavor’s still not all it could be. I’ve tried Trader Joe’s Italian chicken sausage, which has less fat and nice flavor but not that porky robustness, plus it doesn’t brown as well. Then I stumbled across this recipe on the Cooking Light web site, and immediately knew I had to try to step up my pizza-making game by trying it. My friend Editor A graciously agreed to be a guinea pig, so last Saturday night, she came over to help me assemble and cook the sausage (and then make pizza, eat it, drink wine, and watch Impromptu).

This recipe was simplicity itself to make—strictly a one-bowl affair, pretty much like making meatballs but without the trouble of actually having to roll it into balls. I did begin to get slightly nervous when we began to cook it. Thanks to the comments on the Cooking Light web site, I’d been prepared for the fact that this sausage wouldn’t brown as normal, all-pork, super-fatty sausage does. Following suggestions on the site, I cooked the sausage in batches (to allow more room in the pan) and added a little splash of olive oil for better browning. What I hadn’t been prepared for was the fact that, due to the red wine, when the sausage began to cook, it turned a bizarre shade of lavender. It also (due to the wine again) produced a lot of liquid, so I felt like I was practically boiling, rather than frying, the meat. I kept cooking until the liquid cooked off, and then the sausage did brown a bit, though it still had a much paler color than normal sausage. I tasted a few pieces and worried it might be too bland.

But we forged ahead, tossing it onto the pizza (with homemade sauce, sautéed mushrooms and zucchini, and plenty of cheese), sat down to eat, and…wow! This is some great sausage. It’s zesty, it’s meaty, it’s got complex flavor, and it’s not terrible for you. The recipe makes a ton, so now I have nice pre-cooked sausage in my freezer, ready to put on pizza at a moment’s notice. I love that I can season it just to my liking. Next time, I’m thinking even more red pepper flakes, maybe some dried oregano, and possibly garlic powder (which I normally eschew, but it permeates ground meat much more thoroughly than real garlic). This is without a doubt an excellent addition to my recipe arsenal.

1 pound ground turkey
1 pound ground pork
½ cup dry red wine
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1½ teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fried thyme
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves, crushed

1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.

2. Cook sausage, in batches, in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat in a small amount of olive oil until browned, stirring to crumble. Drain.

Yields: 5 cups; sausage can be frozen in zip-top plastic bags for up to 3 months
Time: 30 minutes

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