DAY 21: Our last use of the gravy was for a Simmered Pork Roast back on Day 10. I left home on court circuit just after that but my wife re-heated the sauce on Days 14 and 18 during my absence to keep it fresh….
Our first real experiment in the Sunday Gravy Project was too cook up a batch of Sausages and Meatballs to serve with pasta back on Day 4. After making the traditional Italian pasta feast, we had quite a few sausages and meatballs left, which were subsequently put to various interesting uses, but the last two meatballs ended up being sliced and used on sandwiches. I have to say that I was very impressed with the dense texture of the balls and the way they sliced so nicely (much like cured, store-bought sausage) and it gave me an idea… I decided to try and use a similar, but much spicier, meatball blend to try and make skinless ‘sausages’ that could I could slice as a sort of cold cut, or even use hot for breakfast or in other dishes. The beauty of this, of course, is that, not only will we end up with nice sausage to use, but, by cooking it as part of the ongoing project, we will also add a whole other layer of flavor to the gravy…
- 1lb. Extra Lean Ground Beef;
- 1lb. Ground Pork
- ½ cup finely diced Pork Belly Fat;
- 1 ½ cups Breadcrumbs;
- 1 Egg;
- ¼ cup White Wine;
- 3 Tbsp. minced Garlic;
- 2 Tbsp. Salt;
- 1 Tbsp. Black Peppercorns, whole;
- 2 Tbsp. Fennel Seed, whole;
- 1 Tbsp. ground Black Pepper;
- 1 Tbsp. ground Fennel Seed;
- 1 Tbsp. Celery Seed;
- 1 Tbsp. Paprika;
- 1 Tsp. Cayenne Pepper;
- 1 Tsp. dried Sage;
- 1 Tsp. dried Thyme;
- 2 Tbsp. Sugar;
The first step is to pour about a quarter cup of boiling water over the whole fennel seeds and peppercorns and let them sit for about an hour or so. At the same time, you can grind the sugar, salt, and the remaining dry herbs and spices into a fine powder.
When the peppercorns and fennel have soaked and are softened, beat your egg in a large bowl and then mix with the meat and diced fat. Add the powdered spices, the soaked seeds along with their liquid, the wine, the garlic, and the breadcrumbs, and continue to mix, stirring until you have a homogenous mass that is beginning to get sticky. Now, put the mixture into the freezer for about twenty minutes or so until it firms up to make the sausage formation easier.
I toyed with the idea of making one big sausage that would yield slices about the size of the typical cold-cut slices you get in pre-packaged salami etc., but I thought that the result might be a little hard to handle so I compromised and made two smaller ones.
When I cooked the meatballs in the earlier experiment, I precooked them in a 350 degree oven for about twenty minutes. These sausages are quite a bit bulkier so I went to 400 degrees and cooked for about 35 minutes, turning them once, until they were nicely browned. As with the meatballs, they will still be raw in the very center, but this operation will help add flavor and make them hold together during cooking in the gravy.
Rather than heat the sauce on the stovetop, which risks it cooking to the bottom and giving a bitter, burnt flavor, I heated the pot in the oven until it reached a simmering temperature and then lowered the sausages into it. I allowed them to cook in the gravy for about almost two hours.
At the end of the cooking time, I removed the sausages and let them cool.
Well, the verdict here is actually a dual one… The sausage wasn’t bad. It was very tasty but the texture wasn’t quite as good as I hoped. Indeed, it wasn’t quite as good as it was with the meatballs and I think that upping the breadcrumb amount is responsible. I rather thought that a little more binder would be an improvement but instead it detracted from the same result. I generally enjoyed it but I think I can do better.
As for the gravy, it really is turning into something terrific. It even tastes delicious cold and when it is simmering it makes the whole house smell wonderful. I have been fearful that bitter tastes might develop as can happen with tomato based sauces that are overcooked but so far it is fresh and sweet and taking on an incredible depth of richly layered flavor. I am not sure exactly what I will try with it next but I shall be giving the matter some thought whilst travelling this coming week…