Plum Tuckered Sausages

Sausage and Plums braised in Red Wine

Speaking of open mikes…that’s called a microphone.  It’s a big sausage that picks up everything you say…
Prince Charles

Sorry, but when the food quotes aren’t exactly thought-provoking “food for thought” takes on a new life in my mind, that is to say there is always a political gaff or statement to count on…politics enters into everything whether we want it or not.  I could have chosen, “Litigation:  A machine which you got to into as a pig and come out of as a sausage” ~ Ambrose Bierce ~ either one, just for fun.

Now on to the real subject another Molly Stevens recipe, sausages and plums, certainly an unheard of combination for most cooks, but one of two favorite recipes that I really enjoy making Italian sausages, plums or grapes braised in red wine. 

I read A Thousand Days in Tuscany and vowed to make two dishes out of that book, well, probably make all of them, but the sausage and grapes and “Beans Braised in a Bottle under the Cinders” stayed in my mind of to do’s…Love the sausage and grapes but I haven’t made the beans in a bottle yet unless you count the stove top method. 

So then comes the sausage and plums recipe which is every bit as good as the sausage and grapes.  Friday we had a very casual dinner with friends on the back porch and I served the braised store-bought spicy sausages with fresh French loaves of bread to sop up all the juices instead of polenta or noodles, very good and with a salad we had plenty to eat. 

This is a great make ahead dinner, made it the night before and finished the braise just before serving.  Since the sausages are browned the braising time is relatively short 30-40 minutes.  (Note-cover the braise with parchment paper tucked down over the top of the sausages, then cover with lid).  I didn’t need to reduce the sauce at all and since it was a casual dinner, we each filled our plates from the pot on the stove, tacky, but we just carried our plates to the table on the porch, skipping the additional serving platter.  

A big bowl of fresh picked lettuce leaves with shaved fennel simply dressed with a good Blood Orange olive oil, white wine vinegar, seasoned with salt and pepper and we had a fine meal

Sausages & Plums Braised in Red Wine
adapted from Molly Stevens All about Braising

Wine notes
Lighter-style Pinot Noir from California, or another fruity red, such as Beaujolais Villages.

Serves 4 to 6 Braising Time: 25 to 30 minutes
1 pound ripe purple or red plums, such as Santa Rosa or Italian
1 3/4 to 2 pounds sweet Italian sausages (I liked the spicier sausages)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, minced (about 3 scant tablespoons)
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh sage or 1/2 teaspoon rubbed
*Plum wine I added about 1/3 cup
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of sugar, if needed
2/3 cup light, fruity dry red wine, such as Beaujolais, Dolcetto, or Pinot Noir
1. The plums: Working over a bowl to collect the juices, cut the plums into 1/2-inch wedges, tasting a piece to judge their sweetness, and letting them drop into the bowl. If the plums are not freestone, you’ll have to cut the flesh away from the pits with a knife. Set aside.
2. Browning the sausages: If the sausages are linked together, separate the links with a sharp paring knife or a pair of scissors. Prick each link in several places with the tip of a sharp knife (this will prevent the sausages from exploding). Heat the oil in a large lidded skillet or shallow braising pan (12-inch is a good choice) over medium-high heat until the oil slides easily across the pan. Add the sausages and fry them, turning frequently with tongs, until a medium brown crust has formed on at least three sides, 10 to 12 minutes total. Using tongs, so as not to pierce the casings further, transfer the sausages to a large plate, without stacking.
3. The aromatics: Depending on how fatty the sausages are, there may or may not be an excess of fat in the pan. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon, return the pan to medium heat, and add the shallot. Stir immediately with a wooden spoon, and sauté just until the shallot begins to brown, about 1 minute. Add the garlic and sage, stir again, and sauté until fragrant, another 30 seconds or so. Add the plums and all of their juices. Season with salt, pepper, and pinch of sugar if the plums tasted tart. Stir and sauté until the juices begin to sizzle, about 2 minutes.
4. The braising liquid: Pour in the wine, increase the heat to medium-high, and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom of the pan to dislodge any precious cooked-on bits that will enrich the flavor of the braising liquid. Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes to meld the flavors some.
5. The braise: Return the sausages to the pan, nestling them down so they are surrounded by the plums. Add any juices that may have accumulated on the plate. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to a very gentle simmer. Check after 5 minutes to make sure that the wine is not simmering too excitedly. If it is, lower the heat or put a heat diffuser beneath the pan. Continue braising gently, turning the sausages after 15 minutes, until the sausages are cooked all the way through, 25 to 30 minutes total. Check for doneness by piercing a sausage with a skewer or meat fork to see if the juices run clear. If you are unsure, nick a sausage with a small knife and peer inside to see that there is no pink left.
6. The finish: Transfer the sausages with tongs to a serving platter. Lift the plums from the pan with a slotted spoon and arrange them around the sausages. Cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Return the braising liquid to the stove. Taste and evaluate the sauce. Depending on how juicy the plums and sausages were, you may or may not need to reduce the sauce: it should be the consistency of a thick vinaigrette. If necessary, bring to a strong simmer over medium-high heat, and simmer for 2 to 4 minutes to thicken and concentrate the flavor. I don’t bother skimming this sauce, since the fat from the sausages is integral in balancing the taste, but it never tastes oily or fatty. Taste for salt and pepper. The sauce is meant to be slightly sharp to offset the rich taste of the pork sausage. Pour the sauce over the sausages and plums, and serve.