Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Half-Assed Gourmet

Nope, no numbers.

Well, if you are subscribed to this blog’s Facebook page (!/pages/50-Lbs-to-Normal-the-Blog/288968621123432. Like it. I’m not really good at begging. This is as close as I get so if you want groveling, get a Cocker Spaniel), you know that I’m tired, cranky (Why? I’m tired. Duh. I’m not taking it out on anyone, but I’m cranky) and I’ve decided it’s a good idea to have some cheap wine (QUALITY cheap wine, I hasten to point out). While it does help the cranky, I do need to eat something substantial. It was Yoga Day (aka Tibetan Twister or Himalayan Hokey-Pokey, take your pick). Tyler Florence of the Food Network has a great recipe for something  once called “Roman Style Artichokes,” now known as “Artichokes with Pork Sausage, Lemon and Sage”(How un-freakin’-imaginative). Now, Tyler’s got you cooking from whole artichokes and all the work THEY entail to get to the heart, cutting up pork sausage and basically working one’s tail feathers off.

Nuh uh.

Okay, Gang, listen up: this is why you need access to Trader Joe’s. You save a few steps.

They carry frozen ARTICHOKE HEARTS, God bless their eccentric inventory. I found this out in November 2004 standing in line behind a little lady who had all the ingredient to make this dish (FKA Roman Style Artichokes. Seriously, Food Network? What the Hell? Did Rome threaten to sue?). The dish had debuted on a Thanksgiving special and this was Tyler’s side dish (a Thanksgiving SIDE dish with meat? Hey, Paula Deen was dumping sliced hard-boiled eggs into the gravy. I shit you not). Other than the “Yeah, get whole artichokes and proceed from there,” the dish looked simple, good and relatively healthy (well, especially compared to Paula Deen. I will NOT be eating her gravy any time soon. Or late). But I digress.

I’ve made this dish quite a few times (and screwed up the sage part, using fresh rosemary instead. Still works. Eating dried rosemary is like chewing needles. I learned that the hard way). In my last trip to Trader Joe’s, I found chicken Italian sausage and figured, “Let’s give it a shot.”

This is the point where, if my friend Tony Spatafora (of Dish It Out. Excellence) is reading, he’ll mop his brow, say a quick prayer for my soul and plan an intervention.

Remember the tired and cranky part? Yeah. Not the best mindset for careful food preparation. And the first, mellowing hit from the Two Buck Chuck Chardonnay made me even less interested in doing a lot of steps.

Okay, before we plunge in, let me assure you I have eaten the end result and I haven’t vomited, died or otherwise indicated a problem.  It DOES need some work.

You can get everything from Trader Joe’s (although I wouldn’t swear to the sage)

1 package of chicken sweet Italian sausage

1 bag of frozen artichoke hearts (thaw the little suckers)

1 BB shallot (Big Beautiful), peeled, sliced thin

1 lemon (Truth: the actual lemon I had was harder than Mitt Romney’s heart, so I used my True Lemon crystals instead. 2 packets)

Garlic paste (don’t have garlic cloves on hand)

Olive oil

Poultry seasoning mix (Why? Because I didn’t have fresh sage. BUT poultry seasoning does have sage. What the hell; I’m the only one eating this concoction)

An open bottle of Chardonnay

Fresh ground black pepper

If you’re anal or OCD, you are no doubt checking this recipe against Tyler’s. Yeah; don’t do that. Your head will explode.

For starters, the chicken sausage requires a little prep and you can go one of two ways: either remove the casings (I haven’t seen bulk chicken Italian sausage anywhere, so I THINK you’re stuck with the actual sausages) and brown OR (what I did) pierce the sausages with a fork and parboil them (use your favorite big frying pan. I did. Farberware Millenium. LOVE the stuff)  until they’re firm, remove from water and slice. They’ll look better when the dish is done (not that I was terribly hung up on presentation). Give the pan a quick wash; you’re going to use it again (unless you did the free range browning, in which case, you’re already ahead of the game). Yeah, remove the casings and brown. Move it to the side of the pan.

Quickly sweat the shallots and throw in a tablespoon of the garlic paste. Medium high heat (hey, if it was hot enough to brown sausage, it’s the right heat for this. Just don’t walk away from the stove). Not quite brown, but translucent.

Throw in a little olive oil, if you haven’t already (Look, I’d had some wine BEFORE I started cooking tonight and I’ve had a little more since then). I thought I’d be slick and brown the artichoke hearts like I do when I eat Brussels Sprouts. Didn’t quite work as planned: the artichokes were still frozen and there were a couple of brown spots here and there. Browning isn’t important.

Tyler’s recipe calls for chicken stock. Guess what mine DOESN’T have? I threw in some wine instead (half a glug) and added about a teaspoon of poultry seasoning.

I let things go until the artichokes were thawed (Learn from my mistakes. Thaw them before using), then shook on the lemon crystals and black pepper. I am notoriously light-handed with salt in the first place, even more so when using sausage (because salt tends to be an important ingredient in sausage making).

You know, as weird and half-assed as this one-pan recipe looks in print, it works. Even if you’re tired and cranky, a little planning and prep and you’ll have a decent meal in less than one hour.

Just learn from my mistakes…

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