It’s December, and we all know what December means, right? It means we can have martinis every night since it’s “the holidays!”
It also means, of course, that we have all sorts of parties and such to attend and to cook for. In my case I am working on a menu for Dr. Fiance’s lab holiday party that is coming up in a couple of weeks. Obviously I want us (me) to look super cool to her staff, so that means making something super interesting for the main course at the party. Following the general rule of entertaining that you should never serve something that you’ve never made before, yesterday I went ahead and did a test run on the Sausages Al Vino with Red and Green Grapes with a Red Wine Reduction.
Red and green grapes, get it? Holiday colors! I was drawn to this recipe because it has a grand total of three ingredients: italian sausages, grapes, and red wine. Simple, right? The recipe breaks down like this: you split 2 1/2 pounds of red and green grapes into three cups each. You roast one cup of each color until they are shriveled and caramelized, you puree one cup of each color to make grape juice, and then you poach the final cup of each color in the juice with the sausages and then make a wine reduction drizzle sauce. Simple right?
Here’s the thing about roasting grapes until they “shrivel and caramelize”. After slow roasting my grapes for literally three times the amount of time that the original recipe called for I came to one very clear realization: shriveled and caramelized grapes are more commonly known as … raisins. I should have seen that coming, I guess. Granted, the time commitment paid off because my “raisins” were very sweet and delicious but still, three hours?. One factor is that the “imported from who knows where” grapes that are available at this time of year are enormous and full of juice, which could account for the longer roasting time.
However, this is a recipe that I plan to use for entertaining and given it took me close to three and a half hours to make them, I’m wondering if it wouldn’t make more sense to simply soak some “pre-made” raisins in some red wine (or brandy)? More experimentation is needed clearly. As far as I can tell there is virtually no cooking-related conundrum that can’t be solved by adding more booze.
In any case, the mixture of the “raisins” and the fresher, juicier poached grapes made for a sweet compliment to the savory sausages. Just remember (as I failed to do on this test run) to get SEEDLESS grapes as picking seeds from your teeth at a dinner party isn’t exactly classy. Another thing is that I think for the main event I’m going to mix in some hot sausages with the regular Italian variety, as the spiciness will probably work well paired with the sweetness. I served the dish with some very simple garlic and olive oil mashed potatoes and topped the whole thing with a grape juice and wine reduction that is very very tasty.
Sausages Al Vino with Red and Green Grapes
2.5 pounds of seedless red and green grapes
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 Italian-style sausages
1 cup dry red wine
Preheat oven to 250F. Roast one cup of each color of grapes on a baking sheet, turning frequently until they have shriveled and caramelized into home-made raisins. This could take between one and three hours depending on how juicy your grapes are. This can be done ahead.
Puree one cup of each color of grapes in a food processor. Extract juice from the puree using a sieve, which should give you about a cup of juice. Set aside.
In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the sausages and brown on all sides. Don’t let your pan get too hot or the sausages will burst. Once the sausages have browned, add in the grape juice and poach the sausages for about ten minutes or so. Add in the grapes and continue to poach until the grapes are soft, but not mushy. The sausages should have an internal temperature of 165F.
Remove sausages and grapes with a slotted spoon to a plate and tent with foil to keep them warm. Add the red wine to the remaining liquid and reduce until about a quarter cup or so (should take about ten minutes). Serve sausages on a bed of mashed potatoes with the poached grapes. Sprinkle with the roasted grapes and then drizzle with the wine reduction.
Next step: I need to figure out how to upsize the recipe to get it work for a larger party with many more sausages than will fit in one pan. I’m thinking that instead of poaching on the stove-top I should brown the sausages first, then poach them in the oven in a large pan. Also I just realized that I’m going to need some platters to serve stuff. Now that I think about it, I’ve never cooked a “fancy” for more than six people at time. Holy crap! PANIC PANIC PANIC!
Act cool Jon, act cool. It’s all good. When in doubt have another holiday martini.