Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Spicy Chicken Sausage at Harris Teeter

Good food takes time, so the quickest ways to inject flavor are ingredients where other people have already invested time like cured bacon, spiced sausage and pickled vegetables.

I don't remember where I read that thought.  Probably Michael Pollan.  But I do know that the next thing I read was the nutrition box on a package of pork sausage -- 10 grams of fat and 180 calories each.

That's how spicy chicken sausage from Harris Teeter became the new staple in my refrigerator.  They're a quarter the fat and all the flavor of standard sausage, and they have become the base for meal after meal.

Easiest, you just grill them.  On the grill or in a pan, the sausages cook up firm and make an easy dinner with a roll and a side dish.

But often, I press the sausage out of the casing for ad hoc recipes.  Loose, it browns beautifully.  Add a single link to greens like chard.  Add two links to jarred pasta sauce or to top a pizza.  A little fat makes food more rich, and the spicy sausage provides flavor without making anything greasy.  It's versatile.  I crumbled a pound into lasagna -- my go-to recipe when I'm dropping food off for friends.  It's way more flavor and even better texture than the white-meat chicken that had been my first choice in the dish.

You can come up your own outlets for Harris Teeter's chicken sausage.  Now, I keep a few links in the freezer.  With this discovery, I pass on the national-brand sausages because the pork ones have way more fat and the chicken ones are bland, sometimes even mealy.  If I understand right, Harris Teeter makes the sausage in-house and delivers them fresh, never frozen.

HowChow's Chicken Sausage Lasagna

Note: I make lasagna in two disposable aluminum 8x8 pans when I am dropping off food.  One can go straight in the oven, and the other can be frozen for the future.  You could layer a single 9x13 pan instead.  As you'll see below, the ratios are very forgiving so you can adjust.  A little more or less of any ingredient won't hurt.  And a little more spice might fit your tastes.  This is consciously simple.

1 lb. ricotta cheese (low-fat if you want)
1 c. mozzarella cheese
1 egg, beaten
10-16 oz frozen spinach, thawed and pressed to drain water
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp oregano (optional)
1 pound chicken sausage or 1 pound chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 jar (about 32 oz) spaghetti sauce
about 1 lb. uncooked lasagna noodles
1 c. water (split use)

Saute the sausage or the chicken (in a little olive oil, if using chicken) until just cooked through and starting to brown.  Break sausage up.  Take off the heat and set aside.

Mix ricotta, half of the mozzarella, beaten egg and spices.  Add spinach and mix.  Set aside.

Take two 8x8 baking pans and layer both at the same time:  1) one-third of the sauce and the meat, 2) enough noodles to cover the sauce (probably three in each pan with some broken ones to fill gaps), 3) one-half of the spinach/cheese mixture.

Repeat all three layers.  Then top with a third layer of noodles, the rest of the sauce and the remaining mozzarella.

At this point, you could freeze the lasagnas.  Defrost when you want to eat.

To cook, preheat an oven to 350 degrees.  Pour 1/2 c. water down the side of each the lasagna, cover tightly with foil, and bake for 60 to 75 minutes.  The ingredients are all cooked, so you're just waiting until the noodles have softened and the flavors have mixed.  Let stand 15 minutes before slicing.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Oooohhh... I think I might have to make this to get rid of some of the greens in my fridge (replacing the spinach).