Monday, September 27, 2010

Homemade Sausage - Chicken Sausage with Basil, Tomatoes, and Garlic

Generally speaking, I don't care for chicken sausage.  If you're going to be making fresh sausage, I don't know why you would stray far from the greatness that is pork sausage.  However, I found myself with a bunch of chicken lately that I wasn't quite sure what to do with.  I got a whole chicken with intentions of making a few days worth of fried chicken - one of my favorite things to make - but we were left pretty let down by the chicken that I bought.  It was pretty tough, kind of cartilage-y, and we were grossed out enough by it that we didn't want to mess with frying the rest of it.  What do you do when you have 3/4 of a chicken sitting around and no clue what to do with it?  I initially thought I would just braise it or something - make chicken and dumplings maybe - long and slow enough to break down all the tough nastiness inside that chicken, but then I remembered my recently acquired KitchenAid food grinder attachment.  I've been looking for reasons to use it, and what better way to use it than to break down tough cuts of meat into tender delectable portions?  Luckily, I also decided a little while ago that I wanted to get into sausage making, so I picked up Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie book, and after flipping through it, I found a recipe that fit exactly what I was looking for...

Chicken Sausage with Basil and Tomato (from Charcuterie)
3-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thigh, cubed (I used probably 1 lb of breasts because I had them, then bought a few extra thighs to balance out the ratio of meat to fat..besides, dark meat is superior)
1-1/2 pounds pork fat
~2-1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 tablespoon garlic, minced
1/2 cup basil, chopped, tightly packed
1/2 cup roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, diced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar, chilled
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dry red wine, chilled
10 feet/3 meters hog casings, soaked in tepid water for at least 1/2 hour and rinsed

First, dice up the chicken and pork fat into 1/2" cubes.  Blanch, peel, and seed the tomatoes and toss them on top of the pile.  Add the basil, sun dried tomatoes (make sure to soak them in hot water until soft if you don't have oil-packed), garlic, salt, and pepper to the mix and toss to distribute evenly.  I laid all of this out on a baking sheet for a few reasons.  It allowed me to easily toss everything, but more importantly, it allowed me to chill everything evenly (because keeping everything cold all the time is the most important part of the whole process).  I picked up the hotel sheet thing from my friend Mike in Chicago while helping him at his old restaurant C-House.  Thanks Mike!  Let that jam sit for a few hours to get all evenly distributed and then get ready for fun:

Of course I forgot to take pictures of the actual grinding part because this is my first blog post ever, but fuck it, this is what you end up with after the first grind (grind on small die, make sure everything is cold as shit!).  I ground it straight into the mixing bowl, which was sitting in ice water, so that I could go straight from the grind into the "Primary Bind" phase.

After grinding, immediately hook up the mixing bowl and start it off on low to get the mix going - add the very cold liquid ingredients (vinegar, wine, olive oil) and bring the speed up to 4 (or medium) until the mixture becomes sticky.  That is your primary bind.  Now you are ready to stuff:

Slide your casings on the stuffer and tie off the one end.  After making the sausages I read that spreading some vegetable oil on the stuffer can make it easier to get the casings on - I wish that I had come across that earlier, it would have saved me quite a bit of time, which I think in the end resulted in my sausage mix getting warmer than it should have.  Live and learn.  As for the stuffing part, it only gets more phallic from here...

I generally just ran by feel as far as how much to let out - I ended up with a mostly evenly distributed sausage but I did have one link explode on me.  I think that next time, when the whole coil is finished, I will spend a second or two making sure that the mix is relatively evenly distributed within the coil before starting to link it.

Make sure to slick the surface that you are coiling on with water so that your casings don't stick.

Link like Legend of Zelda motherfuckers.  This part is easy and fun but managed to stress me out to no end.  I basically used my hand as a measurement and twisted alternating directions to create the links.  I was really worried that I would tear the casings both here and when first putting them on the stuffing attachment, but they are incredibly tough (I guess they are intestines, huh?) so don't be afraid to show some tough love if necessary.

Ain't they pretty?  I used slightly less chicken and pork fat than the recipe calls for, and I think that I ended up with about 14 links in the end.  As I mentioned above, one exploded on me, but other than that, I can't help but be pretty psyched about the end result.  I let the links sit for a while in fridge and then cut between each link.  I had a little bit of sausage expand out of the casing during cooking, but it was not a big deal.

We decided to go with a super simple pasta to go with the sausages, so I made some tagliatelle and a really basic pasta sauce consisting of leftover diced blanched tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, some pasta water, and parmaggiano-reggiano.  This is not the best picture ever but I couldn't wait to get into it..

So after all of that, sausage is not that intimidating now, in fact it's pretty easy and kind of fun for a weekend.  And being from Pittsburgh, of course my next sausage test is going to be Kielbasa.  D'jinz eatchet?  I'm gettin hungry fer a kohlbassy sammich.

brains for brunch

officially joining the ranks of amateur ignorant food jerks