"A person cooking is a person giving: Even the simplest food is a gift."

Laurie Colwin

Thursday, January 5, 2012

How to do summer without sizzling like a silly sausage

Summer means barbequing.  That is, grilling.  Why?  I mean - I understand the concept of eating outside.  I understand the concept of not heating up the kitchen.  What I don’t understand is why, on a day so hot that birds are falling fully cooked from the skies, some poor sap has to lean over glowing coals and volcanic rock and flames, drip-basting meat with his own sweat, and pretend that this is the perfect way to cook in warm weather.

Think about it:  those barbeques and grills get way hotter than your standard burner, your standard skillet, or heck, even your standard carbonize-you-at-closer-than-twenty-paces wok.  OK so barbeques and grills don’t heat up the kitchen like an oven does, but at least you don’t have to lean over an oven, flipping slices of eggplant every two minutes so they don’t self-combust.

So, much as I like them, summer barbeques don’t make all that much sense to me.  My heart always goes out to the aforementioned poor sap, particularly when the poor sap is a Sap on a Mission, like the venerable Sausage Sizzle.

Despite what Hoges may have said back in the '80s, the thing that is thrown most often on Aussie barbies isn’t shrimp, but sausage.  Putting a few snags on the barbie is pretty standard – on their own, or as part of a range of grilled meats – in the home, but outside the home, a sausage sizzle is one of the most common fundraisers.

Go down the street, go to the hardware store, and chances are that your local fire brigade or primary school will be having a sausage sizzle fundraiser.  $1 or $2 will get you a sausage in bread, with lots of nicely browned onions on top, and your choice of sauce.  Yes, it’s cheap, so yes, you can afford to give up another $1 or $2 because the guy (almost always it’s a guy) has been sweating over that hotplate since 9.00am and sizzling along with the sausages because his wife is in the Parents’ Association and she’s told him he’s got to do it or he won’t get any nookie for another month and HE DESERVES IT.

At home, when it’s truly hot, my barbeque stays under cover.  But sausages in bread are expected in summer, so sausages it is, with exactly the same flavour if not better flavour as barbequed, courtesy of my electric frying pan.  No heating up the kitchen.  No working over a hotplate.  No constant watching.  No sizzling except what should be sizzling in the pan while I’m sitting on the verandah, feet on my own poor sap’s lap, chatting a little dozily while we make the ice clink in our drinks.  Barbeque schmarbeque.  Feels like summer to me.

Just three easy steps, I promise.  First, chuck everything into your pan.  (No, you're not imagining it, my sausages here are two different colours.  Half are pork and half are beef.)
All right so at the end of Step 2, it pretty much looks like a dog's breakfast.  But it'll come good.  Promise!
See?  Toldja it'd come good!  Now where are those hot dog buns?...

This is such a low-effort, forgiving recipe – fiddle with the quantities, add ingredients, make it in advance, keep it warm – that it’s perfect for those lazy summer days.  If making it advance, however, it’s best done to the end of Step 2; they are best browned just before serving.  What I like to do is keep the sausages warm in the pan, pile split buns in baskets beside them, provide ketchup and mustard, and just let everyone help themselves.

(8 servings)

1 kg. high-quality, high meat content sausages, such as pork, beef, bratwurst
1 kg. onions
500ml beer (what kind isn’t really important, as long as you stay away from the dark stuff – I actually used a non-alcoholic “brewed beverage”)
2 tbsp. seeded mustard
1 tbsp. oil
To serve:  hot dog buns or other bread, ketchup, mustard, and other condiments of your choice

What you do:
1.  Prick sausages several times.  Place in electric frying pan or a sauté pan large enough to hold the sausages in a single layer.  Slice onions very, very finely (a food processor or mandolin is the thing to use here) and add to pan along with remaining ingredients.  Stir briefly to combine.
2.  Bring to the boil with (or over) high heat.  Cover, and reduce heat to low.  Simmer until sausages are cooked through and onions are very tender – about 20 minutes.
3.  Uncover and increase heat to medium high.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated.  Keep cooking, stirring regularly, until sausages and onions are golden.  (Be careful when stirring:  cooked sausages can break quite easily.)  Serve sausages and onions in buns or bread with your favourite condiments.

Yumbo McGillicutty!