With our extended winter this year (spring is finally springing in our neck of the woods this week!), I found myself craving comfort foods to help me get over the cold-weather blues. And for that very same reason, I decided to focus on an American classic for this week’s recipe – one that some might consider a quintessential comfort food. Believe it or not, it’s very hard to find any sort of origin or history around the combination of sausage, peppers and onion. It’s a staple food of Fenway Park, so it must be a Boston thing, right? But others associate it with NYC, and still more with Chicago. All I can say with certainty is that it’s of Italian-American descent, with fairly deep roots, and an easy way to make a quick delicious meal.
The word “sausage” originally comes from the Latin word salsus, which means “salted.” There is evidence of it being enjoyed in Italy as much as 2,000 years ago. That it has a long culinary existence isn’t so surprising; sausage is a perfect way of making sure every bit of the animal is used, and deliciously so. Here in the US, the words “Italian sausage” imply a seasoning based on fennel seeds and anise, and can be sold as either mild or spicy.
Ah, bratwurst. The German sausage has been around for a long time – the oldest recorded recipe is from the 15th Century, but it is mentioned in earlier texts. Germany (and Eastern Europe) in particular happened to be the perfect place to develop the sausages over time, because the cold winters and Northern winds were perfect conditions for testing out this cured meat. Historically, it’s also an excellent way to get nutrients into your system, as the sausages were full of parts that would have otherwise gone to waste (including some organ meats!).
Chowders made with bratwurst are popular in the United States, particularly in the Upper Midwest, but they are often full of beer and cheddar. Those aren’t bad things, mind you! But still, I wanted to make a recipe that captured the spirit and richness of those delicious chowders, but with some cleaner ingredients. Turns out a combination of chicken broth, cream, and a little aged cheddar did the trick nicely. I love this chowder in particular because it doesn’t take long to cook – about 45 minutes from start to finish – another benefit of cooking with sausage!
Shirred eggs, more commonly known as baked eggs, are eggs that are baked in a flat-bottom dish. Although they are traditionally prepared with minimal ingredients, my variation is a little different in that I like to use cupcake pans and layer a host of ingredients into a cup lined with ham or other form of cured meat. I like the idea of building your whole breakfast at once.
These baked eggs are a great way to treat guests that come over for brunch, or everybody’s favorite meal, “breakfast for dinner.”
To start off the New Year, I’ll be posting only Whole30-compliant recipes this month. What is the Whole30 Program? It’s very similar to what I eat already, but with a few more restrictions: no dairy (except ghee), no white potatoes, no rice, no alcohol, no sugars or sweeteners of any kind. It’s a great way to jump headfirst into an ancestral diet (although easing into a Paleo diet is just fine, too) and see some dramatic changes in your health.
For my first January recipe I wanted to share one of my go-to comfort foods: sausage and sauerkraut. It can be whipped up in less than 30 minutes and always hits the spot! Sauerkraut is a superfood thanks to its healthy bacteria; Genghis Kahn took it with him as he conquered Eurasia, and Germans brought it with them on ships as they traveled to America, in order to fight off disease. Admittedly, many of its healthy bacteria are destroyed in the cooking process of this dish, but don’t let it deter you from chowing down on this tasty recipe! When shopping for sauerkraut, be sure to buy some that only has water, salt and cabbage as its ingredients. You can always make it yourself, too; it’s one of the easiest pickling endeavors you could undertake.
My buddies at US Wellness Meats recently sent me a box of goodies to cook with, so for the next few weeks you’ll see some of their products popping up in my recipes. I couldn’t be happier – everything I’ve tried from this place is downright awesome.
When eyeing their Alaskan scallops, I knew some sort of pork needed to be paired with it, but I couldn’t decide. Bacon-wrapped scallops? Done to death. Sausage? Maybe. Both? Now we’re talking. So I whipped up one of my rare “thin-air” recipes – which are actually pretty hard for me to do, since I love recreating traditional recipes more than anything.
This dish only uses a few ingredients and seasonings on purpose – to hone in on the natural taste of the scallops, sausage, bacon, and kale. I also kept the portions a little small, so this dish is perfect for a light, tasty, and slightly messy lunch.
While meatballs have been around forever, the first written documentation of meatballs in Sweden appeared in the 18th century. Meatballs were likely an uncommon food in Sweden until the widespread use of meat-grinders; they later became standard Smörgåsbord (the original buffet!) fare. Scandinavian immigrants brought their meatballs to the United States, particularly the Midwest, during the 1920s. Swedish meatballs are unique in that they are pretty small and often served with a cream-based gravy.
Most Swedish meatballs are made using breadcrumbs (even IKEA’s!) so I set off to make a gluten-free version of the classic dish. It was surprisingly easy, with almond meal, cream, and egg yolk making a pretty hefty binder. I also found that in making the gravy, regular white rice flour (not sweet rice flour) created the best consistency.
Adobo, often considered the national dish of the Philippines, is a method of stewing meat in vinegar. The word “adobo” itself is linked to a Spanish method of preserving raw meat by immersing it in a mixture of vinegar, salt, and paprika. When the Spanish observed an indigenous Philippine cooking method involving vinegar in the 16th century, they referred to it as adobo, and the name stuck. Interestingly, the original Filipino name for this dish is no longer known.
One of our favorite occasional indulgences is Chinese dim sum, and one of my favorite dim sum dishes is spare ribs with black beans. In Asia, black beans (douchi) aren’t the same black beans you get at Chipotle; they’re actually a fermented and salted version of soy beans. This recipe is basically my take on this dish but without the beans.
Part of this dish’s unique taste is the combination of sweet and salty with a subtle fermented twinge – in order to pull this signature fermented taste off, I added dashes of oyster sauce and fish sauce, and it came out beautifully.
There are basically three ways to go about making a gluten-free lasagna: 1) substitute the noodles with a vegetable such as zucchini or eggplant; 2) use rice noodles; or 3) use Cappello’s grain-free lasagna sheets. Pretty easy, right? This recipe works for both options 2 and 3. This is my no-frills, tried-and-true (and pre-Paleo) recipe, with the only adjustment I’ve made is the type of noodle.
Lasagna is likely an ancient Greek food that was passed to the Romans (and later, Italians) over time. The word itself could either come from the Greek word λάγανον (laganon, meaning a flat sheet of pasta) or from the Latin word λάσανον (lasanon, meaning cooking pot). No one’s quite sure. Either way, tomatoes weren’t added to the dish until later, since Columbus was the first person to bring them to Europe in the 15th century.
I have a confession to make: it’s not often that I invent a recipe out of thin air. Usually I tend to re-create tried-and-true traditional dishes using a wide array of sources. However, with today’s recipe – a roasted pork sirloin – I made the whole thing up, mostly out of necessity. Although there are a lot of recipes out there for how to cook pork sirloin, many of them looked less than great, and there didn’t seem to be a universal approach to cooking this cut of pig.
I chose to tackle this dish for another reason, as well: it’s a fairly affordable cut of pork. That seems like a tragedy – to have an affordable, readily-available selection of meat available but no tasty method of preparation – and I wanted to fill that vaccuum. Luckily, US Wellness Meats agreed with me, and let me try out one of their 4-lb. Pork Sirloin Roasts.