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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Linguine with Tuscan sausage and lobster mushrooms

This is a spectacular pasta, using savory pork sausages which are elevated to a higher level by fresh spinach, herbs and wine.  The sauce plays off the rustic flavor of the sausage, using large chunks of tomato and lobster-red mushrooms in a tomato-Madeira-cream sauce.  Fennel echoes the Pernod in the sausage, rounding out the flavor balance.

The Sausages:

Medium hog casings packed in salt
2 ½ lb. coarsely chopped fresh spinach, stems removed
3 lb. boneless pork roast, with fat
(add 2 oz pork back fat if pork appears too lean after grinding)
2 medium shallots, peeled and coarsely chopped
1T sea salt
2 tsp coarse black pepper
1 tsp ground fennel
¼ tsp. dried chervil
¼ tsp dried marjoram
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp cayenne
¼  tsp rubbed sage
¼ tsp thyme
Fresh herbs as available: sage, thyme, parsley, chervil, marjoram, basil.  Varying the fresh herbs will make each batch unique.
¼ c. Pernod
1/8 – ¼ c. Lillet (white)

In a large bowl, rinse out a suitable length (about 3 feet) of casings, changing the water a couple of times.  Run the water through the casing to rinse the inside.  Then load the casing section onto the sausage filler tube while running a bit of water through the tube into the casing in the bowl.  It helps to do this underwater.

Blanch and press water from the chopped spinach, set aside.

Using the coarse grinding plate, grind the meat, shallots, herbs and seasonings into a large stainless bowl.  If the mixture is excessively lean, add the pork back fat.  Resist the urge to not do so; a certain amount of fat is essential for this type of sausage.

Add the spinach, Pernod and Lillet, mix well.

Stuff into the casings, creating 6-inch links.  Fill the casings to about 80% of their fill capacity, so that you will be able to pinch off and  twist the links (twist alternate links to create about 1/3” of twist between each link).

Use immediately or freeze the sausages for later use.

The  sauce:

1 ¼ lbs sausages from the recipe above
1 oz. (about a handful) of dried lobster mushrooms
1   35-oz. can of whole peeled plum tomatoes
3 T tomato paste
1 large or 2 medium Spanish onions, coarsely chopped
¼ c. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ tsp. ground fennel
1 pinch oregano
½ tsp salt
1/3 tsp black pepper
½ c. Madeira
½ c. heavy cream (or to taste)

Rehydrate the mushrooms in a glass measuring cup, covering with very hot water just to cover.  Leave them in large pieces. Set aside.

Drain the can of tomatoes, reserving the juice.

In a large, heavy sauté pan or dutch oven, sauté the onion in the olive oil for a minute on medium heat, then add the sausages.  Continue cooking until sausage is well browned on both sides and onions are translucent, taking care to not burn the onions.  If necessary, add a bit of water and cover briefly to finish the cooking.

For the last minute of cooking, add the garlic, taking care not to burn it.  The pieces of garlic should sizzle and enlarge, becoming opaque. Reduce heat to low.

Remove the sausages and cut into ½” slices; return to the pan.

Add the whole tomatoes, cutting each one in half.  (Do not add the juice back unless needed to adjust the consistency before finishing with the wine and cream).  Add the rehydrated lobster mushrooms and half of their liquid.

Add the tomato paste and seasonings, stir in. Turn up the heat and reduce the liquid until the mushroom liquid is evaporated.  Add Madeira, taste and adjust wine/salt/pepper/tomato. 
Stir in  the heavy cream, heat briefly, and serve immediately with linguine or fettucine.  Toss each serving with its pasta in a hot sauté pan and plate.

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