Monday, July 21, 2008

Birthday Sausages

Well, we've just returned home from the big birthday bash detailed last week in my post "35 people, 5 Meals, 3 Days." I believe it to have been a resounding success, and great fun. I so enjoyed the planning and prep, but more importantly all of the people who were able to come. And they came from all over. We had out-of-staters from Colorado, Nevada, and Oregon and people drove 4-8 hours from Palm Springs, Los Angeles, Red Bluff, and the Bay Area, not to mention those a bit closer in Lincoln and Marysville. It made my birthday all that more special to share it with all these people and actually get some time to visit and reconnect. And everyone pitched in to do their part, prepping, cooking, serving, cleaning, bartending. I could go on and on, but this is a food blog, so I'll get down to the basics. I will try, over the next couple of weeks, to put up recipes of the items that I made and that were served at the party. All got rave reviews. There are a few things that I don't have recipes for, as I do tend to go about things in my own way without directions, so I apologize in advance for that.

Starting off with Friday night dinner, here is the menu that was served;

Friday Night
Salsa/Chips + Crudite + Perlini Bruschetta
Fred Burgers
Homemade Sausages
Corn on the Cob
Green Salad
Make-Your-Own Sundaes

Brilliant Daughter made the salsa, which I wrote about in a post called "Salsalicious" last May. It always gets rave reviews, and someone even asked to take home the little bit of salsa that was left over. It's not a difficult salsa to make and can be adapted for many palates. This version was not too terribly spicy, but the smokiness from the roasted tomatoes and peppers came through loud and clear. The perlini bruschetta is something that Brilliant Daughter invented almost two years ago. I wrote about it in January of 2007, and you can get the recipe here. Unfortunately, there was so much food that this dish did not get served. However, we brought it home and worked on it Sunday night, and I will probably use the leftovers in either a hot pasta dish or a cold pasta salad. Waste not, want not.

The Fred Burgers are legendary around here and available at Schaub's Market at Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto. The almost black hamburger patties are made from Schaub's famous Fred's Steak, a marinated tri-tip, that is ground with chuck to made a succulent, tasty burger that many swear is the best they have ever had. It is a top-secret family recipe, so no luck in sharing that one with you. So first on our list is the homemade sausage that I made with the help of Brilliant Daughter, Mr. B, and our friends Jen and Jason Ko. We all got together earlier this month and spent the afternoon in the kitchen, making sausage and herb salts for the goodie bags. It was a good time, and it tested out my new KitchenAid 600 series mixer, my version of a power tool.

We started with a pork shoulder from Robert's Market, which Butcher Son put through a grinder for me. If you have a local butcher, you can have this done, but buying regular ground pork should work just as well. Butcher Son also brought home the sausage casings, which always seem deceptively small in size and volume, but are always more than I can use. I had trouble deciding on recipes, but knew I wanted one made with beer, one that was spicy, and one that was mild but flavorful. After extensive searching, I finally decided on a Sundried Tomato/Mozzarealla sausage recipe that I found on the internet, and then developed a spicy beer sausage of my own. Nothing like testing a recipe on 35 unsuspecting family members!

Sausage is not difficult to make and if you don't want to put it in casings, you can make it into patties to cook and serve. The most time-consuming part is stuffing the meat into the casings, which requires a meat grinder with attachment (hand or electric), a standing mixer with attachment, or a sausage-stuffing machine. The attachments for my KitchenAid cost about $20-25 (it requires the grinder and sausage attachments). It is quite a process to push down the mean through the tube into the casings, but with lots of hands in the kitchen, it doesn't seem arduous, and the result is oh-so-very satisfying.

The first recipe is from The Spicy Sausage website. It caught my eye as something a bit different. I do think it is a bit tricky putting cheese into a sausage. When grilling this type of sausage, if the casing pops or bursts at all, the melting cheese rains down – so you not only lose the cheese, but it makes a mess of the barbeque. Because these are raw sausages which take longer to grill, I suggest you pre-boil them for 15 minutes. Then you will only need to grill them to reheat and crisp up, with less chance of the fire or flame causing holes in the casing.

I couldn't find a spicy recipe I really liked the look of, so I went ahead and developed my own recipe. It wasn’t quite as spicy as I would have liked, but given the variety of palates being served, I think it was a good choice.

The basic process of making sausage, in very simplistic terms, is:
• mix up the meat mixture (I prefer to do this with latex-gloved hands rather than a spoon)
• do a test fry – form a small patty and fry up. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed
• assemble sausage stuffing equipment
• grease up the sausage attachment (vegetable oil works fine)
• thread on the casings
• stuff the casings, winding into a large circle (see photos at right)
• once done, twist casings to make the individual sausages (alternating clockwise and counterclockwise)
• Voila, done…..

Sun-Dried Tomato Sausage
5-lbs ground pork
3/4-lbs whole milk mozzarella, cut into 1⁄4” cubes
1-bunch Italian parsley, finely chopped
6 1⁄2-oz sun-dried tomatoes in oil, coarsely chopped
1-tbsp dried basil
1-tbsp fennel seed
1-tbsp coarse black pepper
1-tbsp salt
1-tbsp ground coriander
3⁄4-cup dry white wine

Mix all dry seasonings together with wine in a large bowl. Add in the meat, tomatoes, cheese, and parsley. Mix thoroughly and stuff into casings. Makes about 25-20 sausages, depending upon size.

Susan's Spicy Sausage
5-lbs ground pork, coarse grind
8oz bottle beer
1.5-tbsp coarse ground black pepper
1.5-tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp white pepper
1.5-tbsp cayenne
4-tbsp smoked Hungarian paprika
2-tbsp salt
2-tbsp whole mustard seeds
1/8-cup minced fresh garlic
1 1/2-tbsp garlic powder
1-tsp ground bay leaves
1-tsp coriander
1-tsp ground thyme
3 T brown sugar

Mix all the spices and garlic into the beer. Pour the spiced liquid over the meat. Mix thoroughly and stuff into casings. Makes about 25-30 sausages, depending upon size.

The sausages seemed to be a big hit at the party. They got cooked, along with the burgers, on the biggest Weber barbeque that I have ever seen (and one that had most of the guys at the party drooling). I served them with three types of Sierra Nevada mustards, adding to the taste quotient. I would definitely make them both again, and encourage you to try your hand at making sausage. You'll be pleasantly surprised, I promise.

Also, a big thanks to Jen and Jason Ko, Brilliant Daughter, and Mr. B for their time and assistance, Butcher Son for his consultation and providing the raw ingredients, and my friends and family for sharing this weekend and this meal with me.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

35 People, 5 Meals, 3 Days

I am in the last throes of planning a party. A big party. A 3-day party for 35 people at a hotel/retreat in the Sierras. And I am amazed at the amount of planning, the amount of food, and the amount of cooking and prep time it is taking. Just astounding. There is about 65 pounds of meat alone, including Schaub's famous Fred Burgers, two kinds of homemade sausage (sundried tomato/mozzarella and spicy hot), breakfast sausage, turkey and pork/beef for the two kinds of chili, and the beef tenderloins (four big 6-pound hunks). A flat of strawberries and 8 melons, along with 40 ears of corn and 6 pounds of asparagus. Three kinds of homemade cookies, totaling 150 scoops, which I then IQFed (individual quick freeze) so that I can bake them fresh up at the party. Three pounds of homemade dark chocolate almond bark with vanilla sea salt, 40 individual shortbreads, and 40 fruit gelees. And the list goes on.

Brilliant daughter and I have worked tirelessly, but happily, in the kitchen. I even treated myself to a new KitchenAid mixer. My old one, eighteen years of hard use, is still operational but very very tired. It will be passed to my daughter, who will, no doubt, get many more yearsmichael-apron.jpg of service from it. But I needed something with more power and a bigger bowl to facilitate sausage making and larger batches of everything. So I bought a KitchenAid 600 series in pearl metallic. It’s a beauty and has worked great thus far. Happy birthday to me…..

In addition to aforementioned homemade sausage, chili, cookies, almond bark, and shortbread, we have also made salsa, strawberry sundae sauce, pickles, and perlini bruschetta topping. We'll also be making Café Beaujolis coffeecakes on Saturday and pain perdu on Sunday. This ought to be one fat and happy crowd when all is said and done.

My brother and sister-in-law even had aprons made for the party. (see brother modeling one at right in his newly remodeled kitchen which is wonderful) They have the theme of the party embroidered on them "eat.drink.merry." One for every guest to go in their "goodie bags" which include homemade herb salt and Scharffenberger chocolate, among other things. Which reminds me, I need to get back to putting those together and packing up all the food. Meanwhile, here is the complete menu for you to see:

Friday Night
Salsa/Chips + Crudite + Perlini Bruschetta
Fred Burgers
Homemade Sausages
Corn on the Cob
Homemade pickles
Green Salad
Make-Your-Own Sundaes
Gordon Biersch Beer, Margaritas, and Mojitos

Saturday Breakfast
Pecan-Buttermilk Coffeecake
Sausages Links
Fruit Salad
Peet's Coffee
Tea – Herbal and Regular
Juice – Orange and Cranberry
Bloody Marys

Saturday Lunch
Black Bean/Smoked Pasilla Chili (pork/beef or turkey)
Cornbread with honey butter
Soda and Iced Tea
Homemade chocolate chip/pecan, Triple Ginger, or PBJ

Saturday Dinner
Cheese Tasting
selection of cheeses, mixed olives, baguette, and accompaniments
Beef Tenderloin Served with blue cheese compound butter
Roasted Herbed Fingerling Potatoes
Steamed Asparagus with lemon aioli
Dessert Trio
Nana's shortbread, dark chocolate almond bark with vanilla sea salt and fruit gelee
Champagne, Wine, Open Bar

Sunday Brunch
Pain Perdu
Melon Duo
Peet's Coffee
Tea – Herbal and Regular
Juice – Orange and Cranberry