I didn’t mention it yesterday, while posting one of my favorite recipes for a watermelon salad, but many of this weeks dishes were served at a huge BBQ celebration for my mother’s graduation from Mercy College. She worked long and hard to achieve her accreditation as a PA (Physician’s Assistant) and I thought it would be nice if I flew home and surprised her (hence the blog going un-updated for two weeks). I made sure to pack my knives so I could cook up a feast for the woman who first taught me to cook.

Many plans were thrown around, but in the end, I had access to a grill…and what more can I ask for?We had a small gathering for close friends and family, including my brother, the photographer, who snapped some photos of the final dishes. Unfortunately, he wasn’t following me through the process and I was too busy handling several dishes to take the usual step-by-step photos I usually provide my readers. I know most of you don’t need to read up on how to make sausage and peppers, but I think you might find some of my techniques useful anyway. Happy grilling!

Ingredients:

  • Italian Sausage: Being the main element of this dish, I really recommend finding a butcher or market that sells or makes good fresh Italian or fennel sausage.Personally, I prefer the smaller variety that comes in a spiral as opposed to links, but it’s all down to personal preference here. Chicken sausage can be very good too, if you don’t eat/want pork.
  • Peppers: I usually like to buy a variety of different bell peppers; always red and green, but I’ll throw an orange or yellow in there every once in a while. If your guests aren’t concerned about spice, feel free to add a couple of your favorite hot peppers to the mix as well.
  • Onions: Go with Vidalia onions if you have the option, otherwise any sweet yellow onion will do.
  • Fennel Bulbs (Anise): Not often included in the classic sausage and peppers, but a worthy and delicious addition.
  • Fresh Garlic: I crush a few cloves to add to the pot
  • 1/2 can of cheap beer: drink the other half
  • Fresh chopped basil
  • Sandwich fixin’s– Good crusty bread, Provolone, Arugula
  • Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper

Method:

One of the most difficult challenges when putting together a BBQ is using the grill for everything, but having limited space. the trick is to get the good grill flavor and char on everything, but using the stove-top and oven in tandem to finish everything off. For the sausage and peppers, I recommend having a decent sized pot with a lid that will fit all the sausage and veggies. 

1. The first step involved is getting everything cut and ready to cook while the grill preheats.  Slice the peppers and onions in rings about a half-inch (a little over 1 cm) thick. Make sure to keep the onion rings together in one piece as it will make the grilling process easier. When cutting the peppers in rings, discard the seeds, stem and white pith (you can leave the seeds in hot peppers if you want more spice). For the fennel, cut it in manageable slices of a similar thickness. I often leave some of the core for now, which helps hold the fennel together for grilling.

2. Drizzle all the vegetables with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. When the grill is hot, sear the veggies on both sides and set aside on a cool pan, tray or dish.

3. At this point you can place the sausage on the grill and head inside to continue cooking the veg.

4. Crush and roughly chop a few cloves of garlic and heat in your pot with some olive oil. Once the garlic begins to cook, you can add the veg from the grill. If you left the root on your fennel, cut it out before adding to the pot. Give it a stir and head back out to check the sausage.

5. It’s not necessary to cook the sausage all the way through on the grill, so once charred on both sides, remove it from the grill and add to the pot, resting the sausage on top of the veg. Add a handful of chopped fresh basil, and douse with about half a can of PBR or similar cheap beer (it honestly doesn’t have to be cheap, but there’s no reason to waste a good beer unless you’re going for a specific flavor, i.e.-Guinness).

6. Cover the pot, reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.

7. Serve with toasted bread/rolls, your favorite Italian cheese (I prefer a sharp provolone, but mozzarella or Pecorino are nice too), and some fresh arugula (rocket). Assemble the sandwich by placing cheese down first, then hot sausage and peppers to melt the cheese and top with the fresh arugula which will wilt a bit, but still add a fresh crisp flavor to the sandwich.

For a preview of the full spread from mom’s graduation, check out the photo below: