Every Saturday morning of my childhood, my Dad would wake me up early and together we would sneak out to start our day at Findlay Market in Cincinnati. As the bakers pulled their crusty loaves from the ovens and the farmers unloaded their trucks full of peppers and potatoes and peaches, Dad and I would roam the aisles, soaking up everything we could see, touch and smell, waiting “patiently” for a taste.
We’d circle the butcher shops, eyeing their freshly stuffed sausages. Metts, brats, Italian sausages, hot and mild, even sweet apple-kissed chicken sausages – the options seemed endless.
And they are today too. Sausages are experiencing quite a renaissance. Lucky for me, because it’s a total joy to take my own kids to the butcher shop and pick out sausages for weeknight suppers and weekend cookouts. Add some great side dishes and our meals from the market are downright crave-worthy.
These are my family’s go-to sausage and side pairings:
Sweet + Spicy
Opposites really do attract, at least in this classic coupling of flavors. A prime example is spicy chorizo with a side of sweet corn and bean salad. I like to stir together a trio of different beans with some fresh corn and add a generous splash of pineapple juice. It’s a cool contrast to the hot sausage.
Light + Fresh
Highlight the super freshness of a spinach and chicken sausage with a side equally as bright and flavorful. An Italian bean salad chockful of crunchy veggies and tossed simply in a vinaigrette dressing is the perfect pairing for a lean and leaf-packed link. Thread pieces of melon and stone fruit onto wooden skewers for a similarly light and refreshing dessert.
When it comes to Italian sausages, I belong to the school of “Go big or go home!” Because it’s endlessly versatile (and delicious too), the most popular sausage in our house is a sweet Italian one. I crumble it into scrambled eggs, sear it up and dice it into marinara sauce, and stuff it into crusty bread with a crown of grilled peppers and onions. I even like to serve Italian sausage – sweet and spicy – with rice and beans. With hunks of tomato and savory Italian seasonings, it’s a hearty one-pan supper that comes together in a flash. Perfetto!
Puh-lease. Choose cheesy metts for supper and pair them with an equally as cheesy pasta bake. If you’re entertaining, mix together the pasta, beans, sauce and cheese just before guests arrive and let the aroma wafting from the oven greet them at the door. Plate the meal with extra cheese on top for garnish.
You know, sausages were created as an answer to the question of what to do with a butcher’s waste. Sausage-making was a strategic attempt to use every single bit of meat on the block. It has evolved, however, into a craft all its own, an art involving premium ingredients and a thoughtful layering of flavors. Today’s artisan sausages definitely deserve a spot at your family’s dinner table.