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The Creative Sausageby Pierre-Luc Moeys

“Laws are like sausages. It is better not to see them being made”

—Otto von Bismarck

“Profits, like sausages... are esteemed most by those who know least about what goes into them.”

—Alvin Toffler

Considering how popular sausage is worldwide, with forms in virtually every world culinary culture, it sure seems to get a bad rap. But not only has sausage—Old French saussiche, derived from the Latin word salsus, meaning “salted”—been historically a great way to preserve meat in a pre-refrigeration world, it has also been an excellent way to use some of the less attractive, but still quite tasty and nutritious parts of the whole animal. Parts you never would try otherwise. Chopped up, mixed with salt, herbs, and spices and squeezed into an intestine. OK, maybe that might not be super fun to watch, but still better than Congress.

Greeks called it orya back around 500 BC, then Romans took over, and sausage apparently became so popular that later the Church tried to ban it, unsuccessfully. In the present-day, most basic sausage techniques are still about 2000 years old, but the variations available are endless. And nowadays, adventurous cooks at home can actually make their own; many modern home kitchen aids have easy-to-operate grinder and stuffer attachments available. For me, making my own sausage is another way I make the food I create more personal and interesting.

Though the fresh sausages—like breakfast sausage and bratwurst, which need to be cooked before eating—are faster and easier to make, cured sausages (chorizo, salami, etc.) are a whole world unto themselves. Use of salt, drying, fermenting, even smoking bring another flavor level to the meat while preserving it. But great care must be taken; modern U.S. public health practices demand the use of chemical agents in the form of nitrites and/or nitrates to assure the destruction of pathogenic organisms like botulism. So we’ll stick to fresh sausage for this recipe.

The recipe below is one we used in a restaurant I used to work for in Amsterdam. Nowadays we sometimes make it for summer BBQ parties;the smell is great and the taste surprisingly different. Though the actual cooking time is only 45 minutes, this will require preparation two days in advance. Serves four.

Asian-style Duck and Water Chestnut Sausage with Bok Choy, Mashed Potato and Soft-boiled Egg

What you need:
for the sausage:

  • 2 whole ducks
  • sausage casing (talk to your supplier/butcher if he/she can give you some)
  • 1 can of water chestnuts
  • pinch of five spice powder
  • 2 tbsp.(1 oz.) grated ginger
  • 2 tbsp. grated garlic
  • 1 cup of breadcrumbs (home made) or 1 tablespoon of soy protein
  • salt/pepper (2 teaspoons of salt per lb is a good start)
  • KitchenAid unit with grinder and sausage stuffing parts

for the mash:

  • 3 lbs. potatoes (use good mashers like Yukon Gold)
  • 1 big bok choy
  • ¼ lb. butter
  • salt/pepper

for the egg:

  • 5 eggs (have one extra just in case one breaks in the water. You never know!)

We start with the sausage one or two days before the dinner. NOTE: please do this part as fast as you can and make sure the temperature of all ingredients is very low or around 32°F. This is to make sure bacteria growth is at a minimum!

Debone the ducks or get them deboned, cut, and grind it in the grinder: be sure to use the skin of one of the ducks to provide some fat content. Then mix it with all the other ingredients except the water chestnuts (and, of course, the casings), and put the mixture in the fridge. Quarter the water chestnuts and mix those in with the meat mixture, return to the fridge. (I recommend taking a little bit of mixture out, and frying it in a pan so you can get a taste; if it is not to your liking then this is your chance to fix it!)

Add your meat to the cylinder of the sausage stuffer. Attach the stuffer cylinder (if it is removable), making sure that you lock it into position properly. Place your casing on the end of the stuffing tube, like a sleeve. You may find it helpful to bunch up the casing a bit so that the closed end of the casing is flush against the tube end. It will extend as it slowly fills. Start filling, but stop pressure a bit before you think you need to—when you stop pushing, there’s still going to be some more coming out. Leave a little slack when finished.

With the meat in the casing, decide the length of sausage you want and start twisting it on both sides, making sure that the sausage does not become too tight (it will burst if it is). Then cut the sausages on the twist points, and put them in the fridge to rest overnight. Congratulations, you’ve made sausage!

2 hours before dinner:
Peel potatoes, cut into 1" cubes, and start boiling them in salted water. Slice the bok choy really thin. When the potatoes are cooked, pour off the excess water and add the bok choy and butter to the pan. Crush everything well, add pepper and salt. When you like the taste, put a lid on the pan, and stick on the backburner.

In a sauté pan, slowly cook the sausages until done, about 15 minutes. I like to brown the sausages all around, then add some butter and red wine (optional) to it, put a lid on it, turn the heat down and let it simmer slowly—this way the sausage will stay moist and won’t burn. And you’ll have a nice gravy.

Boil eggs for 4 minutes, rinse and peel—but don’t cool them down! When all three items are ready, scoop some mash on a plate and make a little hole for the sausage. Pour in some of its gravy and place the soft-boiled egg in it. To top it off, I personally like half a lemon on the side to give it a good little bite! Enjoy!

Pierre-Luc Moeys is the owner/chef at Oriole 9.

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