Rockridge Cornucopia

Sausages
Saturday, March 2, 2013

In my wanderings through Ver Brugge on College Avenue, and The Pasta Shop and Marin Sun Farms Butcher Shop at Market Hall, I’m amazed at the variety of sausages offered to home cooks. Gone are the days limited to the humble hot dog or Louisiana hot links. It appears the gourmet sausage is here for all to enjoy.

To add to the mix, two new sausage restaurants have come to Oakland. Soon to be open, Hog’s Apothecary at 375-40th Street in the Temescal District is described as an American style “beer hall” serving standard offerings of bratwurst and Polish sausages as well as more creative fare such as a chicken-pancetta sausage with chanterelle mushrooms and figs and an in-house smoked andouille sausage. House-made mustard and sauerkraut will be available. Rosamunde Sausage Grill in downtown Oakland’s Swan’s Market (911 Washington) has an awesome menu of some 15 sausages plus a changing list of specials on the menu – even vegan. Rosamunde is a “hipster” hit in San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood.

What Exactly is a Sausage?

Often associated with German beer gardens, sausages are found in most world cuisines. In its simplest form, sausage is a method of preserving and creating more palatable forms of less desirable cuts of beef and pork. Sausages differ depending on their ingredients, spices, curing techniques, and whether fresh or cooked.

Traditionally, most sausages are made with beef or pork, but you can find links made from veal, chicken, turkey, lamb and fish. (Check out Ver Brugge’s salmon sausages.) All contain varying amounts of fat. Seasonings run the gamut from garlic to hot cayenne and exotic North African peppers. Some veal-based sausages such as bockwurst are very mild.

Store-bought sausages can be fresh, cured with salt or smoke, or heat processed. Some sausages, such as Chinese lop chung, are dried and, as a result, have a long shelf-life. Heat processed or pre-cooked sausages are mainly found in supermarkets and can be served hot or cold. All these factors produce an almost endless quantity of sausage that can be used in a variety of ways and that will appeal to different tastes.

The Sausage in America

The history of sausages in the U.S. is a history of immigrants who introduced them. Most of us are familiar with the basic European sausages: German bratwurst and bockwurst, Italian sweet and hot salsiccia, Polish kielbasa or Portuguese linguica. Less familiar is the British banger served with mashed potatoes and peas. All British pubs serve bangers ’n mash. Blood sausages are common in Irish and Spanish cooking. New Orleans’ regional favorite, andouille, found in gumbos and jambalaya, is readily available at most butchers. Mexican and Spanish chorizo differ greatly from each other. Spanish chorizo is a dry and not very spicy sausage ready to cook or eat cold as part of a tapas assortment; Mexican chorizo is an uncooked spicy pork sausage usually removed from the casing and often cooked with eggs. Chinese lop chung is a dry sausage made from pork and lots of fat. It is smoked, slightly sweet, and highly seasoned. Thinly sliced lop chung is a welcome addition to any stir-fry dish and can be found at any Asian market.

Except for the lop chung, all of the  sausages mentioned can be found at Ver Brugge, The Pasta Shop, or Marin Sun Farms.

My current go-to favorite sausage is the Moroccan merguez. Merguez are uncooked lamb sausages made with traditional North African spices.

Merguez Sausages with Caramelized Red Onions

Ingredients

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 2 medium red onions, sliced 1/4 inch thick Salt 1 tablespoon honey 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar Freshly ground pepper Four merguez sausages Four 6-inch pieces of baguette, split and toasted

Directions

  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.
  • Add the onions, season with salt and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, for 5 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to moderate and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened, about 10 minutes.
  • Stir in the honey and balsamic vinegar and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until richly caramelized, about 10 minutes.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • On a grill (or a cast-iron grill pan), grill the sausages over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until nicely charred and cooked through, about 15 minutes.
  • Set a sausage in each piece of baguette and top with the caramelized onions. Close the sandwiches and serve.

Barry Kaufman is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy. Barry is available for cooking classes and tours of East Bay ethnic markets.

Barry’s e-mail is kaufman42@comcast.net.