Friday, June 6, 2014

Feeling a bit saucy

I've been experimenting a lot lately with different kinds of sauces, but haven't gone too far from the basic tomato-based variety. Inspiration struck last week though, and I had a major taste for something involving onions. I thought about what I had available, and struck off into uncharted (for me, at least) territory.

Next stop....Sauceville!

As I mentioned previously, I am part of a co-op program called Azoti. They partner with a local small farms to bring fresh vegetables and meat products directly to the public. You place an order weekly and the food is delivered, in my case to my work. I had just taken a delivery of both meat and vegetables, and had an idea about what I wanted to do. It was going to be an interesting mix of flavors, so all I could hope is that it was going to work out. 

A small portion of my first fresh delivery. The bacon is hands-down the best i've ever had (both smoked and peppered)

My thought process went something kind of like this: I want onions. Mmm. But what? Maybe an onion sauce? Oooh, like a creamy onion sauce. Using what though? Milk. Cheese? Parmesan cheese. It'd still be too thin. What about a sour cream base, cut with a little milk? That should be thick enough. Ok, so that. Dice up some onions and cook it in the sauce. Onion powder? I don't have any. How about onion salt? That'll work. Yeah, still too thick. Let's add some chicken broth. There ya go. It's too bland looking. I've got fresh peppered bacon! Yes, that. Exactly that. Cook then crumble the bacon annnnnnd....done.

Listen closely- you can actually hear it sizzling!

So the sauce took shape pretty quickly. As with just about everything that I do, I had absolutely ZERO plan as to how I was going to make the sauce. I've found that throwing together a sauce is so incredibly rewarding when it turns out because it's instant gratification. The sauce was creamy without being too thick, but thin enough that it could be poured on top of pasta or chicken and not look out of place. Of course, I had to have something to put this sauce over.

Mild Italian sausage links 

The meat portion of my Azoti delivery comes from Oink Moo Cluck Farms here in Central Ohio. One of the meats I ordered were fresh mild Italian sausage links. I envisioned cutting the links into medallions and searing them in a pan and then serving them on top of a bed of pasta with the onion sauce. I had cooked beer bratwurst from Oink Moo Cluck before, so I had an idea of the consistency, which is different than the store-bought varieties. Typically the kind you buy in the store is has a lot more fat and fillings, which in turn makes the sausages cook a lot faster. I've found that these are much leaner, which makes them a lot more dense. This, in turn, requires a little longer cooking on the stove. 


I started by browning the links in the pan, then removing them and cutting them into slices. Getting clean, even cuts is not important, as having some asymmetry to them enhances the overall look of the meal. Once they were cut, back into the pan they went. First at a high temp to char the outsides, then lower to finish the cooking while retaining the juiciness. 

The smell of fresh tomatoes is indescribable

I could eat these all day long
While this was cooking, I made one of my summertime favorites- tomato and cucumber salad. I had a package of cherry tomatoes, a couple vine ripe tomatoes, and some seedless cucumbers from my delivery. If you've never made a salad using freshly-picked veggies, you are really doing yourself a disservice. The salad itself couldn't be more simple- slice the cherry tomatoes in half length-wise, dice up the big tomatoes, quarter the cucumber and then cut into slices. Mix these together, add olive oil, red wine vinegar, Lowry's garlic salt, and a couple sprinkles of onion salt. For best results, letting it all mingle overnight is recommended, but not necessary. If it were possible, I could live on this stuff.

If "fresh" had a taste, this would be it

While cooking the sausage and making the tomato salad, I had the pasta boiling. For this particular dinner I used the San Giorgio Trio Italiano pasta, which is a mix of three kinds of pasta. Once that was finished and drained, I plated the meal with a bed of pasta, topped with sausage and sauce and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. As a side dish, I cooked a bag of Brussels sprouts ($1.29 a bag at Aldi!).

Not only did the meal sate my desire for onions, as the sauce was deliciously onion-y but not overpowering in the least, but mixing the flavor of the amazing Italian sausage and the perfectly cooked bacon while really made for a unique experience. I think of all of the other things that sauce would be good on and want to make it again. I absolutely will make this meal again- not only because it's awesome for dinner, but the leftovers are even better the next day. That's the mark of a fantastic meal!

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