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Pasta, not Croissants

Today, I am supposed to be posting about croissants for twd, but I have not had time to make them. Honestly. I keep thinking that next week will be less busy and it just never happens. Well, I have every intention of getting to the croissants. It’s just not going to happen today. Maybe tomorrow. We’re supposed to be getting a snowstorm, so I may have to declare a snow day and make croissants. Wouldn’t that be fun?

In the meantime, I give you a recipe for a very tasty pasta dish I have been making lately with my new favorite green leafy veg, escarole. Have you ever had escarole? It’s kind of like a sturdy lettuce. In fact, I once bought lettuce once, thinking it was escarole, but it was not. It’s actually a member of the endive family, and, when eaten raw, it does remind me of endive, with its mildly bitter flavor. However, when you cook escarole, it changes into a wonderfully sweet and crunchy vegetable, with no hint of bitterness whatsoever.

I’ve been using it in this pasta recipe, inspired by a recipe in Rustic Italian Food. This is an easy recipe that can be made in about 30 minutes. It is so tasty that I have to put the pasta pot in the kitchen so that I don’t end up eating all of it myself. Even then, it is tempting to just “have a tiny bit more” several times, until I have eaten way more than I intended. There is not enough escarole in the dish for my taste, but the rest of the family thinks it’s enough. I love how escarole keeps its crunch, even when it is cooked, and it becomes deliciously sweet, especially when paired with the carrots.

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Pasta with Escarole, Sausage, and Cannellini

1 pound mild italian sausage
1 medium onion, chopped small
2 medium carrots, small dice
2-3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 cup white wine
1 head escarole, washed, spun, and chopped coarsely into 1 inch slices
1 14.5 ounce can white cannellini (kidney) beans, drained and rinsed
1 pound dry pasta shells, bowties, whatever shape you like
1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese

1. Remove the sausage from its casing and brown over medium heat in a 12 inch nonstick skillet. When it is mostly browned, add the onions and carrots and a sprinkling of salt. Sautee until the onions are softened, about 5-7 minutes.

2. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the white wine, cover, and simmer over med-low heat for 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Cook the pasta for recommended time. Drain, reserving a cup of pasta liquid for finishing the dish. Return the pasta to the pot and let rest while finishing up the sauce.

4. When the wine is mostly gone, add the escarole to the pan and stir until wilted. Then, add the drained beans. Stir and cook everything over medium heat until everything is hot.

5. Pour the sausage mixture into the pot with the pasta. Toss in the cheese and mix gently until everything is evenly distributed. Add some pasta liquid if things are getting to sticky or stiff.

6. Serve with extra cheese on the side. Makes 6-8 servings, 10-12 if half your of your family/guests are children.

Brunch May Never be the Same

Brunch is our favorite meal.  I would say breakfast, but, really only one of us in this family is up early enough to actually cook a breakfast and he has yet to learn how to cook.  Well, he might be able to manage scrambled eggs, but french toast, bacon, and coffee?  Not yet.  We’ll work on that.  In the meantime, every Sunday, after we come home from church we make a nice big brunch.

We always have eggs in some form and a carb.  The carb varies from week to week depending on my mood.  Sometimes, we have pancakes or waffles, other times if we have leftover bread there will be french toast, and if I am feeling really lazy, I make toast. Occasionally, when in an ambitious mood, I will make some boiled potatoes the night before and we’ll have hash and biscuits.  The husband is in charge of the eggs and the meat, which is almost always bacon.  Until last week.

Last week, we made our own breakfast sausage.  Yes, yes, we did.

We had to make some space in the big freezer for a big order of beef from the butcher, so I dragged out a very large piece of pork that we had in there from our last order.

This unsmoked, raw ham was probably about 10 pounds, with the bone.  I had the husband cut it up into chunks (throwing the bone back in the freezer for stock later), which he added to a tray full of seasonings that I had already prepared.  In the mix was garlic, chopped sage, lots of grated ginger, and a lot of dried apples from our fall adventure.

All this went into our food grinder, which comes out probably only once every five years.  It was a bit messy and I was glad I had the foresight to wear an apron!

After about 45 minutes, it was all ground and I poured in some hard pear cider and mixed it up.  We cooked a little to make sure it tasted ok.  It was a bit salty and the flavors did not seem blended yet, but we were not worried.   Ok, maybe I was worried a little.   The mix was really lean because we had not added any extra fat.  I hoped that everything would mellow out and blend together nicely as it aged because  that was sure a LOT of work to go through to not have some awesome sausage at the end.  We had about 9 pounds of sausage when we were all done and everything got packed into freezer bags and stowed into the freezer.

Yesterday, we took out the first one and sliced it up.

Then, I pan fried them in a little oil.

It was good; a little on the salty side, but tasty.  The flavors had melded nicely with its rest in the freezer.  The ginger gives it kind of an asian flavor and the dried apples made it subtly sweet.  Because the meat was so lean, it did not have a trace of greasiness, and it was a little firmer than other sausages.  Still, for a first try at making our own sausage, we are pretty pleased with it.  Next time, I will try to add some pork belly to give it some more fat.  The husband mentioned that this would be really good in a stuffing/dressing for Thanksgiving.  I think he’s right, but I’m not sure we will have any left by then!

p.s.  I used the breakfast sausage recipe from the book Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman.   I have had this book for awhile now and this is the first thing I have made with it.   I added the dried apples and substituted pear cider for the water called for in the recipe.