Wed Feb 9, 2011
I don't understand what's with all this bitchin' about mother-in-laws. I have no qualms with the in-laws—time spent with them are always occasions I look forward to. Not only do I get to go down to Texas and indulge in some of greatest Tex-Mex and barbecue known to man, I also sometimes return with gifts that are meant to win my heart. This year really took the cake though when I received a 5 lb vertical sausage stuffer. Know that I really meant what I said about loving the in-laws and that there is no need to buy my love, but c'mon, how freakin' sweet is it that my mother-in-law got me the sausage stuffer of my dreams. (Oh god, that sounded bad, didn't it?)
I haven't broken in the new stuffer quite yet, but it's spiked an interest in sausage making that had me reminiscing about links past. One of the fondest from last summer were these spicy roasted poblano sausages. Not only were they a success in pork sausage for me—something I still need a lot of work on—but they also fed the chile head in me, starting with roasting poblanos, which immediately filled the kitchen with the fruity aroma of sweet and spicy chiles.
The recipe got even better by calling for a second helping of poblanos, just this time as the dried and shriveled version, anchos. These were roasted in a 350 degree oven until their earthy aroma started to mix with the fruity poblano one that was still lingering, filling me up with an unique excitement for cooking that can only truly be awakened by chiles.
The anchos were ground, then added to a pile of five pounds of pork butt and one pound of fat back cut into cubes. A fitting mixture of salt, oregano, garlic, paprika, and cumin was also added to the meat, then tossed together to thoroughly coat the cubes with spices.
The mixture then took a pass through my trusty Kitchen Aid grinder. I've been a lot more careful with keeping all ingredients as cold as possible through the process now, freezing the grinder and bowl, and then grinding the meat int a bowl set in ice water. I'd like to attribute my extra care here to the success of these sausages, and hopefully future ones.
With the meat all ground, the poblanos were added into to the party, along with cilantro and some ice water, and given a spin until I had a cohesive looking sausage mixture. A quick test patty then confirmed the seasoning was perfect and these were going to be some killer sausages.
Here's where I'd wish I'd had that 5lb vertical stuffer. For years I've been struggling with stuffing using the craptastic Kitchen Aid sausage stuffer. All of the Kitchen Aid design effort must have gone into the meat grinder—which I love—with the sausage stuffer being a mere after thought, because the pain and amount of time it takes to get meat into casings has been my greatest roadblock to experimenting more with sausage making. Never-the-less, I'm a determined man, and I got every last piece of meat stuffed into natural hog casings and tied them off into 6-inch links.
Taken to the grill, these cooked up to a beautiful reddish color with spots of golden brown on the casings that had me feeling that crunchy snap before I even had one bite.
This sausages were way more than good looks, they were also a triumph of flavor. Juicy porky goodness spewed a mild heat that lingered on the tongue, making any resistance for seconds futile.Luckily, seconds and thirds and fourths are not far off, since my mother-in-law has so kindly enabled me to take my sausage game to the next level. The forthcoming Meatwave season may just end up being the summer of the sausage, creating more fond memories to warm my heart in the winter, exactly as these spicy roasted poblano sausages are doing right now.
Spicy Roasted Poblano Sausage
Adapted from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Poleyn.
5 pounds boneless pork shoulder butt, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 pound for pork fat back, cut into 1 inch cubes
3 large poblano peppers
3 tablespoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons ancho chile powder
2 tablespoons fresh oregano
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon Spanish Paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup ice water
Natural hog casings, soaked in lukewarm water for at least 30 minutes and rinsed
1. Roast the poblanos over an open flame on a gas stove or grill until the skins are completely charred. Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes. Remove the charred outer skins, cut in half and remove the seeds and cores. Cut the peppers into a small dice, you should have about 1 cup.
2. Combine all the ingredients except the poblanos, cilantro and water in a large bowl and toss to distribute the seasonings evenly. Chill until ready to grind.
3. Grind the mixture through the small die of a meat grinder into a bowl set in ice. Add the peppers and cilantro to the meat mixture. Mix with the paddle attachment, or a sturdy spoon, while slowly adding the water. Continue mixing until all the liquid is incorporated and the sausage has developed a uniform, sticky appearance, about 1 minute on medium speed. Chill until ready to stuff.
4. Form a small patty of the sausage and saute until cooked through. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
5. Stuff the sausage into the hog casings and twist into 6-inch links. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to cook.
6. 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 the charcoal grate. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place the sausages on the grill and cook to an internal temperature of 150 degrees. Remove from the grill and serve.