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Italian Turkey Sausage- Oh so good!

braised_turkey_sausage

Is there anything better than a good pork sausage grilled to perfection? Plump, moist, with that snap of real casing and just the right amount of smoky char from the grill marks?
For me, the answer is surely no. But my doctor has advised that I try to eat less porky goodness, and more lean meats. “Try turkey sausage,” she says. “They grill up…” her voice trails off as she tries to bring out the lie. “Well, they do make an acceptable substitute in spaghetti sauce…”
I’ve tried to grill turkey sausage, but to no avail. Cooked to a safe temperature, they almost always dry out. But dedicated to both my health and my husband’s health, I trudged valiantly on.
I tried first boiling the sausage, as I would a bratwurst (in beer). This resulted in a mushy interior, not the firm but moist meat I was seeking. I tried cooking low in the oven, then searing as I would a steak or chop (the Reverse Sear Method, bookmark worthy, no doubt). No joy there either. I tried roasting in my RV’s convection oven, treating it like a Thanksgiving feast. Darned failures, all!
Then I was reading over Rachel Ray’s 365: No Repeats: A Year of Deliciously Different Dinners when I stumbled upon the answer. The recipe was called Sweet Sausages Braised in Onions with Horseradish Smashed Potatoes.
Although it calls for traditional sweet Italian sausage made with pork, this preparation – quick sear followed by a short bath in seasoned, simmering broth – rang all kinds of alarm bells in my mind. Like Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein, I found myself thinking: It! Could! Work!
So, armed with the Fit and Healthy Sweet Italian Turkey sausages from Aldi’s that had been languishing in my refrigerator, and frankly, taking up much needed real estate in that cramped confine, I dove in. I seared the sausage in a 9-inch, thick-bottomed Dutch oven in a bit of olive oil.
I chose this vessel as the pan I would have normally have used for braising on a residential range would have been too large. Not too large to fit, but too large in the sense that any pan larger than 10-inches will likely cause damage to the finish of the grills on my Atwood range. Didn’t know that? I too wondered what was causing the damage in our old HR Vacationer until my husband was surfing around on the inter-web one day and discovered this little gem.
A pan this size did not allow for me to sear all five sausages at the same time, so I worked in stages, setting the first set of sausages aside on a pan to collect the juices for later.
When all the sausages were seared, I added another tablespoon of olive oil (since the turkey sausages did not give off any fat as pork sausages would have) and added sliced onions, deglazing the pan with their juices. I cooked these until soft, then added garlic and fresh sage (the recipe below calls for thyme, but that is not DH’s favorite seasoning) and cooked, stirring for a minute. I prefer to add garlic to a sauté late in the game, since it can so easily burn and become bitter.
Then the balsamic vinegar, chicken stock, and honey joined the party. Since my husband is a diabetic, instead of adding the amount of honey called for in the recipe, I started with a teaspoon and added more a teaspoon at a time until it tasted balanced with the vinegar. I ended up, for our tastes, with only about 2 and a half teaspoons of honey instead of the 2 tablespoons called for in the recipe. I returned the sausages and their liquid to the pot and brought the liquid to a simmer. They braised for about 8 minutes while the potatoes finished.
The result? Nothing short of a small kitchen miracle! Here were turkey sausages that had a bit of caramelization to them from the sear, a snap to the casing, and a moist, juicy, firm but still tender to the tooth inside. The taste of success was far sweeter than the bit of honey I’d nipped earlier in the process (c’mon man, you know you do it).
The recipe below is from Rachel Ray’s cookbook, but I encourage you, as I am sure she would, to make it your own. Don’t like thyme (like my husband)? Try something else! The world is your oyster now that you know how to cook those healthy turkey sausages.

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