Grilled sausages by the book, er, magazine

by Terry B on July 9, 2008

The juices of Italian sausages flavor red bell peppers and onions when they’re all cooked together on the grill. Recipes below.

I said last week that I like cookbooks with lots of photos. Let me amplify that statement: I like cookbooks with lots of color photos. Printed on slick paper to bring out every nuance—flecks of herbs, the sheen of cooking juices on a roast, the trail of a bead of condensation on a chilled wine glass. So imagine how less than interested I was in a cooking magazine that features line drawings and black and white photos on non-glossy paper.

I know, I know. Cook’s Illustrated is one of the best cooking publications out there. They’re America’s Test Kitchen—it says so right there on the cover. They don’t just cook something a time or two and call it close enough for government work. They cook it again and again and again—I’ve heard “a hundred times or more” bandied about—until they get it exactly right. Food bloggers everywhere rave about it.

But there’s just something so Highlights for Children earnest about its look to me that I’ve never been able to get past. Visually, it’s the sensible shoes of food magazines for me, singularly uninviting.

Still, when our neighbors Tom and Michael raved about it over dinner recently, I thought it was high time I got over myself and check it out. What I found, of course, was a wonderful new [to me, at least] resource. Picking up the current edition shown here, in addition to a recipe for Better Grilled Sausages with Onions and a couple of variations on the theme that led to my own variation above, I found secrets for great grilled chicken, tips for keeping produce fresher longer, an exhaustive comparison of silicone spatulas, a baker’s dozen of quick tips and a whole lot more. All packed into 52 pages refreshingly bereft of restaurant reviews, travel articles and other distractions that crowd the pages of more and more supposed cooking magazines. Also bereft of advertising. Since that’s what I do for a living, I was somewhat ambivalent about that.

But what I really liked about my first issue of Cook’s Illustrated is that they don’t only tell you how to cook something, they tell you why certain steps and techniques work. And for that matter, why some don’t. So you don’t just learn to cook a dish, you learn techniques and tips you can use elsewhere.

Of course even though the title for this post says by the book, I had to tamper with the recipe. No big changes, mainly just treating the red bell pepper differently to integrate it more into the dish. If you want to see the thoroughly tested version of the recipe, pick up the magazine.

Grilled Sausages with Peppers and Onions
Serves 4, with possible leftovers

2 large onions, halved and sliced, about 4 cups
3 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 pounds uncooked sweet or hot Italian sausages [see Kitchen Notes]

Special equipment: 13 x 9-inch disposable aluminum roasting pan, deep enough to hold sliced onions and peppers with sausages arranged in a single layer on the top.

Start charcoals for grill or begin preheating gas grill.

Combine sliced onions and peppers in a microwavable bowl and season with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for about 4 to 5 minutes, tossing once halfway through. This will give vegetables the needed head start, so they’re not overly crunchy [see Kitchen Notes]. Transfer vegetables to disposable roasting pan and arrange sausages in a single layer on top. Seal pan tightly with aluminum foil.

Spread coals in a single layer and place roasting pan in the middle of the grill. Cover grill and cook for 15 minutes. Move pan to one side of the grill and carefully remove foil. Transfer sausages to grill, grilling directly over coals with the grill uncovered, for 5 to 7 minutes, turning frequently to brown on all sides. Watch for flare-ups, moving sausages as they occur. These should be minimal, since much of the sausages’ fat has already been rendered into the roasting pan. Transfer sausages to serving platter and tent loosely with the foil you removed from the roasting pan, unless it has blown into the neighbors’ yard.

Cover grill and continue cooking onions and peppers, stirring occasionally, until the liquid evaporates and the onions begin to brown, about 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer to serving bowl. Sausages can be served with buns and the onion and pepper mixture passed around as a topping. We preferred to make a bed of the vegetables and serve the sausages sans buns.

Kitchen Notes

To nuke or not to nuke. Microwaving the peppers and onions gave them a headstart, making them quite limp by the time they were finished grilling. If you’d like crunchier vegetables, either greatly reduce the microwaving time or skip it altogether.

Pick a sausage, any sausage. Well, not any sausage, actually. Only choose uncooked sausages; the precooked ones will dry out too much. Cook’s Illustrated also advises that if you choose chicken sausages, which tend to be leaner, go for ones that contain cheese. The extra fat will keep them from drying out. And if you’re concerned about fat content, don’t grill sausages, at least not in this comparatively slow-cooking method.

In other cooking news, Teresa over at I’m Running To Eat recently made Marion’s dangerously delicious Linguine Non Carbonara and liked it so much she posted it on her blog—with the appropriate credit and links back here. Thanks, Teresa!

Also this week in Blue Kitchen, 7/9/2008

Word on the street: Sidewalk poetry. Graffiti takes a poetic turn on the streets of Chicago, at WTF? Random food for thought.

Jump jazz keeps the kitchen hopping. The Mighty Blue Kings bring an Uptown swing vibe to Blue Kitchen, at What’s on the kitchen boombox?

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) July 9, 2008 at 2:25 am

I’m ambivalent about Cooks Illustrated. They often claim that their recipes are “the best”, which doesn’t impress me — the best recipe is the one done to the taste of the cook. There are no absolutes in cooking! I also gravitate towards books and magazines with color photos.

Cathy C July 9, 2008 at 2:53 am

I would take those sausages and peppers and promptly introduce them to my friend the BUN and enjoy a great meal…

Cheers
Cathy
http://www.wheresmydamnanswer.com

one food guy July 9, 2008 at 2:01 pm

I’m also a big fan of Cooks Illustrated and recently picked up the current issue. They claim to have come up with the recipe for the best grilled chicken, but I’ll tell you my process is even better. Always use bone-in, that part is indisputable, but I start my chicken over the hot side of a two level fire, skin side down until it gets a nice color, then flip it to the bone side down, still over the hot side. Then I slide the chicken breasts over to the cooler side (indirect cooking) to finish them off. They ALWAYS come out super juicy and delicious. Finish them with some barbecue sauce or serve with some hot sauce on the side. Yum!

Nice sausages by the way, great stuff!

sarah July 9, 2008 at 5:54 pm

“Of course even though the title for this post says by the book, I had to tamper with the recipe. ”

ha. of course. :)

Terry B July 9, 2008 at 6:15 pm

Lydia—You are absolutely right about the best recipe being the one done to the taste of the cook. And while I found Cook’s Illustrated quite informative, it’s good to take most things we read with a [preferably kosher] grain of salt.

Cathy—I in fact made exactly that introduction with some leftovers the next day. The meeting went very well.

one food guy—Even though you’re a fan of Cook’s Illustrated, you perfectly prove Lydia’s point. Thanks!

sarah—Well, tampering is half the fun in the kitchen, isn’t it?

GirlCanBake July 9, 2008 at 7:14 pm

Looks awesome! And I agree- a cookbook without pictures… what’s the point!? I need something to get my mouth watering before I dive into the kitchen.

the italian dish July 9, 2008 at 7:54 pm

This looks so delicious! I subscribe to Cook’s Illustrated and I always learn something new.

tastymealsathome July 9, 2008 at 8:48 pm

Love eating grilled veges and sausage especially tail gating or at bbq’s! Nice post, great blog.

Joan July 10, 2008 at 1:50 am

Although I too love Cooks Illustrated, the sausage recipe was a huge disappointment. I have been cooking sausages (bratwurst) on he grill my whole life. The recipe did not control the flare ups at all…in fact they were the worst I’ve ever had. Nice try but this one’s a loser.

Terry B July 10, 2008 at 2:34 am

GirlCanBake—Thanks! Yep, besides getting me excited about cooking something, it often gives me a good idea of how the dish should turn out at the end.

the italian dish—As I explore it more, I think this will be a real strength of Cook’s Illustrated.

tastymealsathome—Thanks for stopping by!

Joan—I really didn’t have much in the way of flare-ups with this. A lot of the fat had appeared to cook off in the roasting pan, flavoring the peppers and onions. However, I did spot one amusing moment when one of the sausages suddenly “sprung a leak,” sending a tiny stream of juices arcing into the air.

diva July 10, 2008 at 7:18 am

OH DEAR ME. that looks great. anything on the grill tastes amazing. i’d zap it off the screen please.

S for Kitchen Confit July 10, 2008 at 6:35 pm

This looks great – If only I could find good Italian sausage where I live. Thompsonville just doesn’t cut it.

Terry B July 10, 2008 at 6:44 pm

diva—Thanks! And now go get some Windex for your monitor.

S for Kitchen Confit—Any kind of sausage [well, most kinds] will work. Bratwurst, kielbasa, even good old-fashioned hot dogs. But uncooked varieties work best, retaining more moisture as they cook.

Gills n Thrills July 11, 2008 at 4:14 am

I love Cooks Illustrated, but I already have access to so many food magazines that I can’t justify subscribing. I really recommend that you watch their video podcasts. They’re fantastic!

Helmut July 11, 2008 at 8:45 am

That sure is one tasty looking sausage. Beats the packaged Bavarian Bratwurst I fried yesterday!

Terry B July 11, 2008 at 2:23 pm

Thanks, Gills n Thrills. We’ve kind of narrowed our food mag subscriptions down to Bon Appetit for that same reason.

Thanks, Helmut. Still, when you’re talking sausages, it’s hard to go wrong.

Jeri July 11, 2008 at 7:56 pm

Oh that looks yummy! My husband would love that so much. I think I have some sausages in the freezer right now…

Christina July 15, 2008 at 2:29 pm

I go back and forth over the magazine. I like the kitchen tips that readers send in (I always like opportunities for reader participation in just about any magazine/journal/website), but I struggle with the articles. The writing is so formulaic–really written like a lab report every single time–that I can rarely read them. So I read the kitchen tips, look at the recipes, enjoy the pretty drawing on the back, and then put them away. Only a few recipes from my several years of subscribing have been keepers, one of which is the penne al vodka recipe a few years back.

Your sausages look great though. I think preserved meats (bacon, salami, all sausages, etc) are the strongest tie I have to meat and what keep me from ever becoming a vegetarian.

Terry B July 15, 2008 at 2:49 pm

Jeri—Thanks for visiting!

Christina—Yeah, I can see that whole sensible shoes element to the magazine, and food really is about emotional connection as much as it is “how to.” Regarding prepared meats, I’ve said in the past that when vegetarians I’ve known have fallen off the wagon, it hasn’t been for skinless chicken breasts or salmon fillets. It’s been for bacon.

Donald July 15, 2008 at 9:41 pm

Yeah, this is a great dish. I like the method. I have never done the veggies like this though. I use one of those “hole-y” skillets for the grill, but I think I like the idea of the sausages cooking together with them, so this one’s in the TODO list.

TEB July 17, 2008 at 7:30 pm

Oooh. I make something similar only over pasta.

I wonder if it’s part of my being the Google generation that I rarely have the patience for food magazines– I like blogs instead, especially because of the pictures and the feedback being right there.

Terry B July 17, 2008 at 8:02 pm

Donald—I’m looking forward to trying this method with other vegetables too.

TEB—Oh, I’ve totally embraced the Internet too. But I like looking at all sources. And it’s just a different experience. For instance, I look at the New York Times online every day. But when I flip through a print copy, I find articles it wouldn’t occur to me to look for in the online edition. Sometimes I feel the Internet makes it easier to self select what we’re looking for, thereby editing out other possibilities.

TEB July 18, 2008 at 2:47 pm

True– and I do *love* my cookbook collection and flip through it often. Maybe there’s something about the magazine format that doesn’t work for me… worth thinking about.

Though I do love the Economist and the New Yorker. Ah, northeast liberal … well, I can’t even finish that phrase cause your spam checker would eat my comment. Oops ;)

Terry B July 18, 2008 at 3:31 pm

TEB—If I were the kind of person who types LOL [and I am most definitely not] this would be the place to type it. We’re definitely cut from the same political cloth.

Erin July 18, 2008 at 4:36 pm

I still feel like I have a lot to learn about cooking, so I feel like reading Cook’s Illustrated gives me new ideas about how things really work in the kitchen. Not always the BEST recipes, but I’m always pleased and feel like I’ve learned something new. I do love the glossy photos, though!

Bad Home Cook August 20, 2008 at 3:32 am

A hearty second (and third, and fourth) on the Cook’s Illustrated commentary. I *need* my hand held in the kitchen…but I haven’t been overwhelmed with everything I’ve plucked from its pages either. Still, I am so very grateful. They’ve tried to idiot proof it for the likes of me.
And I’m sorry. Those roasted red peppers and sausage. Must you tempt me to lick my own computer screen? Sigh.
Just discovered your blog. Love the name. Love the look. Love the writing. Yeah, yeah, yeah you’ve heard it all before. But there you go. I’m your newest fan. (if only I were Oprah…)

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