Monday, March 18, 2013

UnRecipe: Local Color With Polenta and Sausage

Giggle all you want, but it all started with a sausage. A big, hot spicy one, if you must know. And Portuguese -- how exotic! Not that I'm one to cook-and-tell... oh, who am I kidding, I totally am! This one started out with a lone linguisa, which turned into a pleasantly colorful quick-draw meal on a weeknight, thanks to the random lovelies in our CSA box.

Polenta and sausage will never be the same when linguisa came to town - Photo by Wasabi Prime

I grew up with Portuguese sausage, aka, linguisa/linguiƧa which is traditionally a smoke-cured, spiced sausage, flavored with a lot of garlic and paprika. Although I would argue the version of Portuguese sausage I was raised on was considered Hawaii-style, as it's a very popular there (you can get it with breakfast meals at McDonalds!) and the seasonings may vary, depending on the house recipe. The typical recipe is very garlic and paprika-heavy, not super-spicy, but Portuguese sausage I've had in Hawaii can be a little more heavy on the savory, more fatty and tender, and with a little kick of heat. The style of linguisa I buy now at the grocery store is likely more to motherland Portugal's style, but if I'm craving "my" Portuguese sausage, Uwajimaya tends to have Hawaii-made brands like Redondo's  or the hometown favorite brand, Hilo-made Frank's Foods.

I didn't have Hawaii-style linguisa, but the traditional and more-readily available style of sausage worked perfect for this dish, given its firmer texture and a lighter flavor that wouldn't overwhelm a dish. I got it in my cranium to make sausage and polenta. But no dish ever winds up with Thing 1 and Thing 2, as you know -- an UnRecipe must be made! I took one look at our collection of vegetables from our CSA delivery and realized for polenta and sausage, two's company and a crisper drawer full of Swiss chard, delicata squash and red onion's a full-on hootenanny waiting to happen on your plate!

Duck fat makes EVERYTHING better - Photos by Wasabi Prime
This is a mini ode to Swiss chard, but one of the things I like best about it is its color, especially the rainbow variety. The stalks are bright hues of orange, yellow and full-on totally rad 80's magenta. Short of stewing them into mush, they'll retain their colors in a good pan-sear and wilt. For this dish, I built everything on the all-powerful Duck Fat. We have a lovely little container of this golden, delicious searing oil, thanks to the Mister and his compulsive internet shopping. I used a healthy dab of it to put some color on some chopped-up delicata squash before caramelizing some minced purple onion, and then tossed in the sliced linguisa to render down before the chopped chard went in. I know people tend to discard the stems of the chard, but I incorporate it into a dish where I can. I'll chop off about a half-inch from the woody end, and then finely chop the rest of the stalks up until the leaf. They're still a little tough, so I cook the minced stalks with the onion, as it takes about the same time to break down and caramelize.

Colorful dinner awaits! - Photo by Wasabi Prime
Once the mixture of vegetables and sausage was seasoned and finished with a little chicken broth, I started a pot of polenta going. I haven't had a lot of experience with polenta, but it's something I'm working on making more often, to get better acquainted with the ingredients and improve my technique, which is to say, get those pesky lumps out! The finished dish is a delicious blend of vegetable textures, a meaty bite, all on top of a creamy bed of polenta.

A chopped-up mess of ingredients for a chop-chop dinner - Photos by Wasabi Prime
It's a simple enough dish to make, but so satisfying. And easy to adapt with other vegetables of your choice, as well as different meat choice or sausage. I'm looking forward to making variations of this dish in the future.

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