Beer-braised Sausage-Kale Pasta & Arugula-Mint Salad

January 31, 2011

Aunt Suzy says . . .

Every week Salon.com has what they call Kitchen Challenge, where they pose a type of food or specify ingredients and ask people for their best recipes.   These are often informative, usually lots of fun and provide ideas for new recipes.  Last week was no exception when they asked people to send in “your best combinations of beer and sausage”, asking that people think outside the bun.  The winner was this recipe for sausage and kale braised in dark beer and tossed with pasta.  The author had a sense of humor in that the recipe includes beer, sausage and mustard!  Everything except the bun :-).   We really enjoyed this with the arugula-mint salad that follows, and I thought the Valpolicella I served was a great match.  (sorry the photo is so dark!)

The Sausage-Kale Pasta

1 pound small pasta

EV olive oil for sauteing

4 fresh Italian sausages, meat removed from casings

1 white onion

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound kale, inner stems removed and chopped in 2-inch pieces

1 12-ounce bottle dark beer (we used porter)

1 tablespoon mustard (more or less to taste)

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper

Grated Parmesan for serving

NOTES ON INGREDIENTS: The original recipe called for spaghetti, but I thought it would be easier to eat with small pasta shapes.  We used Strozzapreti, having just gotten some on sale.  We used 2 hot and 2 mild Italian sausages made with turkey – pork would also be delicious.  We used Lacinato kale (also on sale!), but I think the curly would work just as well, although it would take longer to become tender.

DIRECTIONS: Coat the bottom of a large Dutch oven with olive oil.  Heat to medium high and add the sausage meat.  Brown till just done breaking up into pieces.  When done, remove the sausage and set aside.  Wipe out any stray bits of sausage from the pot, but leave all the good brown stuff – the fond – in the bottom.  Put in a little more olive oil and add the onion.  Saute over medium heat until soft, scraping up the bits off the bottom of the pan.  I found that those bits started burning a little after about 3 minutes, so I added a small amount of the beer to deglaze the pan.  Add the garlic when the onion is soft and stir for a minute till it becomes fragrant.  Add the prepared kale and stir until it’s wilted – you might have to do this in more than one batch.  Add the cooked sausage and the beer, bring to a bubble, reduce heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes until the kale is tender.

In the meantime, cook the pasta according to directions till al dente.  Drain, saving 1/4 cup of pasta water.  Stir the mustard into the pasta water and then add, along with salt and pepper, to the kale-sausage mixture. Add the Parmesan and stir to blend everything.  Stir in the pasta and heat back to serving temperature.  Serve in bowls and pass the extra Parmesan.

The Arugula-Mint Salad

1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, coarsely ground in a mortar

2 tablespoons EV olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or a mix of the vinegar and lemon juice to equal 1 tablespoon

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper

6-8 cups greens – a mix of baby lettuces and arugula (I found a bagged mix)

20 or so mint leaves

Make the dressing by combining the fennel, olive oil, red wine vinegar and lemon juice, mustard and salt and pepper.  Whisk until slightly emulsified.  Combine the greens and the mint, then wash and dry.  Place in a salad bowl and toss with the dressing.  Garnish each bowl with a couple of mint leaves.  This salad is a refreshing Wow!

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