Last weekend, we had another birthday party for the Critic (will they never cease?) and in addition to the Tex-Mex food I planned on serving I bought loads of food that could be put on the grill if we started running low on nosh. As it turned out, there were fewer people than I anticipated and so I was left with a salmon filet, ground beef, chicken breasts and a couple of long Italian sausages. Most of this has found its way into the freezer, but last night I decided to use up at least one of the sausages. It was the first time I have seen anything as exotic as Italian sausages (!) in the meat section of my Monoprix, and I was curious to see how they tasted.
I planned on making pasta with either a sausage and cream sauce or sausage-tomato-onion combination and deliberated all the way home on which one to choose. (Nigel recommends the cream sauce, but then the tomatoes need to be used up and would be healthier...then again with cream we can have a tomato salad...)
Once back home, I was brought up short by the fact that I had about 2/3 cup of each of the varieties of pasta, no more. Back to my Italian cookbook, Essentials of Italian Cooking, by Marcella Hazan and I found a substitute dinner: Italian sausage risotto.
I didn't follow Marcella Hazan's recipe to the letter (do we ever?) and it's a fairly simple recipe, so I'm just giving my own version below. It turned out very flavourful. The Critic, who usually is especially critical of anything stodgy or caloric didn't complain at all. Well, he had one small complaint, which I rectified in the recipe below.
Italian Sausage Risotto
2 medium onions, chopped
2 Tbs butter
1 Tbs dried sage
1 Italian sausage (mine was thin and about two feet long)
2 cups Arborio rice (or Spanish paella rice if that's all you have on hand)
1 glass dry white wine
3-4 cups hot beef broth
1/3 cup (approx.) grated Parmesan
Sauté the onions in the butter until golden. Stir in the sage and begin squishing bite-sized pieces of sausage into the pan. Stir every so often so that the sausage continues to cook evenly as you add meat. The onions will brown a little on the edges, but this will add a nice flavour. Once all the meat is in the pan, stir a few times until it is all thoroughly cooked. At this point you may be tempted to drain the sausage and onions. I can only say that the end product will be a lot less flavourful (although admittedly healthier) if you do. I left it. Add the wine and turn up the heat a bit; cook down until most of the wine has disappeared and then add the rice. (I also added wine towards the end of the process and the Critic reckoned it left a slightly acidic overtone, so I probably should have stuck to Hazan's advice to add it at the beginning only.) Turn the heat back down to a simmer and stir for a few minutes until the rice turns transluscent and then add your first ladle of broth. Stir until the broth is absorbed and add another. Continue like this for the next twenty minutes or so, until the rice is cooked but has a bit of bite in it. Add freshly ground pepper and a generous grating of fresh Parmesan, stir and serve!
As a side dish, I sliced up some nice ripe tomatoes threw them in a bowl with some soft goat cheese, sprinkled a little olive oil, sherry vinegar, salt and pepper and mixed for a summery salad. Everyone finished his or her vegetables and our friend David accepted seconds on the risotto - the best compliment a cook can have!
You may be asking yourselves why - again - there is no photo? Well, tasty as a sausage risotto is, it looks like dog food in a photo. Or worse. So in order to avoid putting you off making it, I have decided to forego the photography. Once you smell the risotto, you won't care WHAT it looks like.