Tue Oct 1, 2013
I did a pseudo-catering gig over the weekend for a friend's bachelor/bachelorette camping party. I haven't done many events like that, and my first thought was to put together a grand, cohesive meal for a special dinner. The groom-to-be had other thoughts though—grill up a bunch of awesome small bites to last from lunch through the late night. To me, that's just a Meatwave and totally in my comfort zone. The only problem was that I had little advance notice, leaving a tight schedule for prep, and while I wanted to deliver on all the menu suggestions, I ultimately had to let one fall by the wayside—sausage. If time was no issue, there would certainly have been some home ground and encased meats at the party, and I'm sure this roasted garlic and feta chicken sausage would have gone over great.
Some sausages are pretty quick to churn out, but this one take a bit longer because it starts out with roasting garlic to develop the base of a great flavor profile. I made the roasted garlic by slicing the tops of a few heads of garlic, wrapping them foil with a little olive oil, and then cooking them in a 350 degree oven until they were browned and softened—about 20 minutes. Roasting took the sharp bite out of the garlic and transformed it into a sweet and savory affair that's kind of great just to eat on its own. Since its intensity was scaled back, it took three whole heads of roasted garlic to fully flavor four pounds of meat.
With roasted garlic in place, I added a seasoning mixture taken from my experiences with Greek cooking. The fatty cubed chicken thighs were tossed with shallots, feta, oregano, salt, and pepper.
The chicken was then run through the small die of my meat grinder. A lot of people have been asking me why I do the seasoning prior to grinding, and it's really just a personal preference I've come to develop. The flavor will be the same whether you season pre or post-grind, but when I add all the ingredients in prior to grinding, it lets me be a little lazy on prep. Letting the grinder to some of the work, I could roughly chop the shallots, oregano, and feta, knowing that they'd be broken down more once they met their fate with the grinding plate.
After the meat was ground, I added in a bit more feta to have both small and big chunks of cheese in the sausage. Red wine vinegar and lemon juice were added as well and the whole thing to a spin in the stand mixer until the meat was cohesive and slightly emulsified.
Then came the step I always like to reenforce—taste testing. Once the meat is stuffed, you're pretty much committed to what you have, so it's so important to break off a little bit of sausage and pan fry it to ensure everything is seasoned well.
Once I verified that the sausage delivered on the garlic and feta flavors I was after, and was sufficiently salted, I got it quickly stuffed into hog casings using the 5-lb vertical stuffer that has made my sausage-making life such a joy. Links were then tied, and it was off to the grill.
They grilled up beautifully and I was quite pleased with the results. This sausage didn't overwhelm with too much flavor—something pre-packaged grocery store sausages do too often—letting the chicken gently meld with the garlic and getting a nice bite of sharp and salty feta here and there. It reminded me why homemade sausages are so great, and made me think that I should just always have some on hand in the freezer in case there are any last minute scenarios like this past weekend where a great homemade sausage would have only made the meal that much better.
Roasted Garlic and Feta Chicken Sausage
- Prep Time:
- 1 Hour 30 Minutes
- Cook Time:
- 15 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 1 Hour 45 Minutes
- 4 pounds
- 3 small heads garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 pounds pounds skin on, boneless chicken thighs, cubed
- 10 ounces feta cheese, crumbled, divided
- 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, chilled
- 2 tablespoons juice from 1 to 2 lemons, chilled
- Natural hog casings, soaked in lukewarm water for at least 30 minutes and rinsed
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut top quarters off of heads of garlic. Place garlic cloves, cut side down, in center of a sheet of aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil. Seal foil and place directly on oven rack. Cook until cloves are browned and very soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool for 10 minutes, then squeeze cloves out of the skin into a small bowl.
- Combine garlic, chicken, 1/2 of the feta cheese, shallots, oregano, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Chill until ready to grind.
- Grind the mixture through a meat grinder, fitted with small die, into a bowl set in ice.
- Using paddle attachment of a standing mixer, mix on low speed for 1 minute. Add remaining feta, vinegar, lemon juice, increase speed to medium, and mix until liquid is incorporated, about 1 minute more.
- Form a small sausage patty; place rest of sausage mixture in refrigerator. Cook patty in a small frying pan over medium-high heat until cooked through. Taste and adjust seasonings of sausage if necessary.
- Stuff sausage into hog casings and twist into 6-inch links. Refrigerate until ready to cook.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Grill over medium-high direct heat until sausage registers 160 degrees when an instant read thermometer is inserted in middle of link. Remove from grill, let rest for 5 minutes, and serve.