Looking for a quick, warming dinner on a blustery night? You can't go wrong with pan-roasted sausages. Sizzle them on the stove and you'll stir up autumn hungers, drawing everyone into the kitchen. Add a few simple ingredients and dinner is done.
You'll find all kinds of local freshly made sausages — pork, turkey, chicken and lamb — at our farmers markets, butcher shops and in the meat department of our co-ops. The best options are plump and nicely seasoned; they'll split and sputter as they cook, releasing their fat and spicy juices that flavor the other ingredients and create a silky pan sauce. (Bypass the precooked and vacuum-packed varieties sold near the hot dogs in grocery stores.)
Apples and sausages are the most winning combination. The fruit's tart sweetness balances the spice of the sausages, lightening and brightening their heft. When deciding which apple to use, consider its sugar content and weigh in on the tart side. I find that the old-fashioned Haralson or Northern Spy varieties with their sharp character and relatively dense texture make a fine choice. These hold their shape as they mellow and soften. Fresh thyme and parsley add earthiness to the pan sauce that's cut with a splash of beer or cider. Swirl in a spoonful of mustard for a peppery kick and be sure to offer plenty more when you serve it.
You can turn this into a hearty dinner by piling it onto creamy polenta or a tangle of buttered fat noodles. But when I'm in a hurry, I prefer a few thick slices of rough country bread to mop up the juices. A bright green mix of peppery arugula in a zesty vinaigrette makes the perfect side.
Here's where a few simple ingredients in one simple pan make for a simply sensational dish.
Sausage, Onion and Apple Scramble
Serves 4 to 6.
Note: Use any sausage you like, but do choose apples that are tart, such as Haralson or Cortland, to add a sharp kick. Serve with plenty of coarse mustard and plenty of crusty bread to mop up the juices — and a cold beer. From Beth Dooley.
• 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
• 1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/4-in. slices
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 2 sprigs fresh thyme
• 3 sprigs fresh parsley
• 3 to 4 large, tart apples, cored and cut into 1/2-in. slices (see Note)
• 8 bratwurst or Italian sausages, about 4 oz. each
• 1/2 c. beer, white wine or fresh cider
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
Put 1 tablespoon of the butter into a large cast-iron pan or heavy skillet and set over medium-high heat. Add the onions and season with the salt and pepper and stir to coat with the butter. Add the thyme and parsley, reduce the heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are nicely browned, about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and set on a heatproof plate and hold in a warm oven. Remove and discard the herb sprigs.
Put the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter into the pan and add the apples. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring the apples, until they're brown on both sides, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the pan and add to the heatproof plate with the onions and hold in a warm oven.
Pierce each of the sausages in several places with the tip of a sharp knife. Return the pan to the stove over medium heat and add the sausages in one layer. Brown the sausages slowly on all sides, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the beer and cook until reduced to a glaze and the sausages are cooked through and no longer pink when sliced.
To serve, arrange the apples and onions on a large platter, slice the sausages into chunks and place over the onion-apple mixture.
Beth Dooley is the author of "The Perennial Kitchen." Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.