Sometimes you take a risk on a cookbook and it really pays off. I had seen bloggers around the internet talking about Aida Mollenkamp’s Keys to the Kitchen, but beyond that I knew nothing about her or the book. I was buying books at The Good Cook (where I might as well be an investor I buy so much) and I needed one more book to get the lower bundle price, so I threw it (metaphorically speaking) into my cart.
Stroke of genius!
Keys to the Kitchen is that very unusual all purpose cookbook that manages to teach complete novices and experienced cooks alike. And, just as important from this experienced cook’s point of view, it teaches as much about improvising in the kitchen as it does about following recipes. My favorite cookbooks are those that, when I stray from the recipe, I feel I am eliciting the author’s approval. And if they give me fresh ideas I have not used before in the meantime, even better.
I sometimes get my head so stuck in a particular culture or country’s cuisine that I have trouble improvising what I would call just regular contemporary American food. Not fusion, exactly, but not the dishes our grandmothers and mothers made either. So when I saw this recipe for smoked sausages with apples I was instantly intrigued. Mollenkamp was riffing on the idea of pork and chutney; after searching in my freezer and coming up with Spanish style (chicken) chorizo, I was more riffing on the idea of influencing Mollenkamp’s dish with a Spanish/North African sensibility. Because, um, you can give me great “American” ideas but chances are I will still bring them back around to what I know best, tinkering with the traditional flavors of other countries! Likewise, you should play with my seasoning on your own riff. Bratwurst or kielbasa would be other great sausages to use here.
- 3-4 T extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 8-10 smoked sausage--I used Aidell's Spanish style chorizo
- 8 crisp, sweet apples, such as Fuji, cored and roughly chopped
- 8 small-medium potatoes, chopped into bite sized pieces
- 2 red onions, chopped
- 8 garlic cloves, minced
- 4-6 T red wine vinegar (I thought Spanish sherry vinegar would be nice here but I was out)
- 1½ t coarse sea salt
- ⅓ cup light brown sugar
- 1½ t Spanish smoked paprika
- 2 t dark mustard seeds
- 1½ t dried ginger
- 1-2 cups chopped kale (can be measured roughly)
- Preheat the oven to 400 F. Place a rack in the middle of the oven.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat (I own a 4 quart sauté pan, so I used that and used it as my casserole pan as well). Brown the sausages on all sides, which will take about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
- While the sausages are browning, toss the onions, kale, apples and potatoes with the garlic, 4 tablespoons of vinegar, remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, sugar, salt and spices. Coat everything thoroughly. If you need more moisture, add a bit more oil and/or vinegar.
- When the sausages are done browning and have been removed from the pan, turn the heat off. You can use a deep casserole dish or you can use the same sauté pan if it is appropriately large enough. Spread the apple and potato mixture into either the casserole dish or the cooling sauté pan.
- Place the sausages in a single payer over the potatoes and apples. Cover the pan or dish tightly with either foil or a pan lid. Place in the oven on the middle rack.
- Roast for 10 minutes. Remove the foil or lid and roast for an additional 15 to 20 minutes (if the sausage is not pre-cooked, make sure the internal temperature is at least 160 F, but I was using pre-cooked sausage and so did not bother).
- Serve the sausage with the apple and potato mixture.