The June Charcutepalooza challenge was poultry sausage. This was a great for me. I’ve consumed a whole lot of sausage—you can’t live around Cincinnati and not eat a fair amount of sausage. I’ve made a decent amount of sausage, both in cooking school and afterward. But I’ve never been a fan of chicken sausage. So I thought I’d use this challenge to force me to make something I’d likely never make. Sure, I could have used this challenge to make some really cool duck sausage or something like that, but I’ve done that before. And where is the challenge in using premium ingredients? I’ve got nothing against premium ingredients. Please don’t get me wrong. But if you look at the history of garde manger, which is the broader discipline that charcuterie descends from, it is about elevating scraps and leftovers. For me, the poultry sausage challenge was all about elevating something simple, something humble, like chicken thighs and using only chicken skin and fat, leaving that all that lovely pork fatback in my freezer.
I started with some really nice and fresh Amish chicken thighs that came from Cincinnati’s Findlay Market. I skinned them and trimmed them of fat, then removed the bones. But what to do next? I free-formed this challenge, meaning I did not use a recipe. As long as you start with the proper of meat to fat ratio, who needs a recipe? I walked into the pantry and just started looking at my spice rack. The mix of spices I ended up picking isn’t the most revolutionary. It is somewhat reminiscent of Italian sausage. I added some sun dried tomato and pine nuts to the mix and I felt I had something good. I had to take a few more sample runs in the skillet than I would have using a recipe, but it was fun to have the recipe evolve.
The resulting sausage was really nice. I served it both with a pasta sauce and some penne and also on a bun with sausage and peppers. Both would have made nice pictures had I taken some. Forgetting to take pictures when it comes time to eat has always been a problem for me.
Summary: A light, moderately spiced chicken sausage
- 4 pounds chicken thighs, skinned and boned
- 1.33 pounds chicken skin and fat, rough chopped
- 5 ounces sundried tomatoes, rehydrated, rough chopped
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
- 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 2/3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 20 feet 3/4″-1″ sheep casings, soaked and rinsed
- Soak casings in tepid water for at least 2 hours. Then rinse and flush inside of casing with cool water for at least 2 minutes. Reserve
- Using meat grinder, grind chicken meat, skin, and fat through large die into bowl sitting in ice bath.
- Add remaining ingredients to ground chicken and either mix by hand or with mixer using paddle attachment until all ingredients are throughly mixed.
- Pack into sheep casings.
- Poach sausage in lightly simmering water for about 20 minutes. You can serve them as they are or grill them for some really nice color and added flavor.
While my recipe calls for sundried tomatoes, I used some lovely tomatoes I oven-dried last summer.
Also, I used garlic powder rather than fresh garlic because this recipe does not have any pink salt in it and garlic in an anaerobic environment presents a sanitation risk. It’s probably not a risk since I poach them, but better safe than sorry.
Culinary tradition: USA (General)
Recipe by Dan Tudor, tartare.org.