Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Fatted Alice and Sausage Zen

Following Doc Biggles of Meathenge's advice, I stopped by the Fatted Calf the last two times I was at the Berkeley Farmer's Market. This was my second time at the Berkeley market, but I was too intimidated to get anything the first time I went there after Sam's post. I'm not afraid to admit it - as a new foodie, I didn't know what half the things on the chalk board was! "Why don't you ask the vendor?", you might ask... It's one thing to not have the balls to ask questions, but it really is a problem of totally different dimension when you don't even know what to ask! I would've asked questions had I known what to ask, but I was at the level of wondering how to pronounce most of the items listed!

As I advanced in my Farmer's Market Consumer Levels, I've come to learn that the simplest questions are sufficient to get me started. Anne overheard someone ask a vendor, "Are you organic?" I've adopted this one, along with "Do you use pesticides?". For other non-produce vendors, I've learned to use, "What do you recommend?" and that's what I used at the Fatted Calf last time I was there. Or more specifically, "Meathenge told me I should try something from here. I have no idea what that something was, but what do you recommend?"

What I came home was this:
Toulouse sausage. Actually, I didn't know that I had gotten sausages until I came home. I only knew it as Toulouse. And that I needed to cook them slowly to prevent bursting.

Bursting sausages are never welcome at my place. Oh, no.

I wasn't really sure what I had gotten myself into until I opened my package and started cooking this. My goodness! I don't think I've smelled any meat product as fragrant as these sausages in my current kitchen.

I had planned for a spaghetti with marinara sauce, topped with the sausage, but as soon as the kitchen air filled with the aromatic scent of roasted meat, garlic, and fat, I knew I had underestimated the sausage. I needed a preparation to highlight the sausage better. The sausage demanded that I reach out to find Zen. Simple, austere, powerful.

I closed my eyes and tried to find Sausage Zen. Of course I have never practiced meditation or know anything about Zen, so Sausage Zen was a lot more elusive to find than I thought. But time was running out - the sausages were cooking already, the spaghetti was in the pot already, and my stomach was starting to whine. What better time to push myself to find the power of Zen?! After all, Japanese Zen is an austere, punishing philosophical exploration, isn't it?

As I sat there breathing in and out quietly, I hit Sausage Nirvana. A-ha! Sliced carmelized onions! Balanced by blanched asparagus! Spaghetti as the base!
I quickly started slicing and dicing the onions with samurai precision, boiled water in my electric kettle for the asparagus, and worked at the speed of light, while the sausage roasted slowly and happily. I wasn't quite quick enough, though, and the sausages got a bit 'crispy', but in the end, it came out alright. I didn't lose an ounce of the flavorful sausage drippings, capturing all the juices with my spaghetti.

This was one of the most fragrant dishes I've made in a long, long time. If anything, it smelled better than it tasted. The sausage itself might have gotten a bit over-cooked, since it was too crumbly for my taste. But then again, maybe I'm just not a big fan of 'real' sausages. I kinda like my skinny breakfast sausages better than these fatties. Size doesn't matter after all, huh?


The Papa Bear said...

Mmmm... I love the imagery....

But I can attest that the dish handled the balance of the different flavors very well. Very tasty dinner!

(Hey, I'm the first one to comment on this hot-off-the-press entry. Yooo hoo!)

Alice said...

Hot in more ways than one, huh, Papa? I'm surprised you aren't giving me more of a hard time for this one!