Sunday, April 25, 2010

Fairgrounds Italian Sausage, Peppers, & Onions

Close your eyes and imagine being at a fair, carnival, or festival. Can you hear the sizzle of a flat top grill and smell the Italian sausage, peppers, and onions?

Yesterday, Alexis and I got up at dawn and headed down to the inaugural Pork Knox, a KCBS sanctioned BBQ contest. A full post about the event is forthcoming.

We got there early, before the crowds showed up and food vendors opened their booths. The contestants are very friendly and willing to talk shop around this time. But once turn in times approach, I know to leave them the hell alone. We were hoping the weather that assaulted the entire southeast might hold off until after the event was done.

I was taking pictures when the vendors fired up but I knew that later I wanted two things, a funnel cake and an Italian sausage sandwich with peppers and onions. [I know, why eat that at a BBQ contest? I'll explain tomorrow but in short, a BBQ contest is a competition, not a BBQ festival. There's a difference.]

But then the skies turned ominous...and we got drenched, so I never got my Italian Sausage sandwich.

I decided to make my own today. Sure I could try to upgrade and make it "gourmet" but I wanted the real experience. There is just something about a fair sausage dog.

So my ground rules were keep it simple like a fair vendor would do. The only difference was that I was using live fire instead of a gas flat top like the carnival vendors use.

Fairgrounds Italian Sausage, Peppers, & Onions

Source: Nibble Me This

1 1/4 lbs Italian sausage links
16 oz beer (warm!)
1/2 large yellow onion, cut into 1/4" wedges
3 ea mini sweet peppers, seeded and cut lengthwise (Sub a green bell pepper if needed)
2 hoagie rolls, sliced lengthwise
2 Tbsp mustard
oil (see text)

Preheat a cast iron pan on a 350f grill. Place the sausages in the pan and add 12 oz of the beer. TIP: Be sure it is warm! Pouring a cold beer into a hot cast iron pan can cause a catastrophic failure of the pan. (That means your pan could literally break in two pieces, drench your fire, and ruin more than just one meal.)

Cover and cook for 16 minutes, turning the sausages 1/4 turn every 4 minutes. If needed, add the final 1/2 cup of beer to keep the liquid level up. TIP: Don't trust those silicone oven mitts. After opening the lid 3 times, I realized each time they were partially melting onto the lid.

Remove links to cutting board and split lengthwise. Drain liquid (if any) from the pan.

Oil: This is an area where I cheated. Carnies use plain oil. I used a high heat oil (safflower) and mixed about 1/4 cup with 1/4 tsp each of salt, pepper, oregano, and basil for a seasoned oil.

Put the pan back onto the fire and add about 1 tbsp of the oil. Place split sausages and veggies back onto the hot pan. Squirt about another 1 - 2 Tbsp of oil on the veggies.

Toss the veggies with tongs for the next 3 minutes. Flip the sausages (they should be browned at this point). Continue tossing the veggies for another 3 minutes and remove the pan from heat.

Slice the two hoagie rolls lengthwise and slather some mustard on each side. TIP: I used a mixture of 1 Tbsp plain yellow mustard with 1 Tbsp of coarse ground mustard.

Fill each roll with half of the sausages and half of the onion mixture.

Ahhhhh.....craving satisfied.

Versus: Fair/Carnie Food

(leave your preference in the comments section)
*Italian Sausage sandwich
*Cotton Candy
*Candied Apples
*Kettle Corn
*Corn Dogs

Obviously, I'd have to go with Italian Sausage sandwiches. What's your call?