No one really knows how the game is played,
The art of the trade,
How the sausage gets made.
We just assume that it happens,
But no one else is in the room where it happens.
The Room Where It Happens, Hamilton
The last time that sausage and peppers and “sausage” and peppers were made in my home, there were leftovers. When I went to open one container to identify if it was the vegetarian version, I accidentally dropped it on the floor. I spilled the entire container, made a giant mess, and it turned out it was the actual sausage and peppers. I ruined my parent’s food and still got to eat my “sausage” like a big jerk. So this week I am making sausage and peppers—using my mother’s recipe, which, as usual, is not much of a recipe—and making amends.
There are some things that cannot, or at the very least, should not be made at home. Sausage (and, by extension, “sausage”) is one of those things. It never even crossed my mind to make my own sausage; I think it requires a KitchenAid attachment that I don’t even have. I toyed with the idea of using something other than fake sausage of the “sausage,” but I’ve had the Tofurky Italian “sausage” before, and I knew it would work well with this recipe. In addition to the meat/”meat,” I also need peppers, as the name implies, and onions, as the name does not imply! I, personally, enjoy “sausage” and peppers, as is, on a plate, but for this meal I planned to make sandwiches on Italian bread.
I began by prepping all of the peppers and onions that I would need for both versions of the dish. Instead of slicing the peppers or dicing the onions (as I have done in previous posts, I just cut them into chunks, and then dumped them into an oiled electric frying pan.
Because there were so many, I cooked the peppers and onions in a couple of batches. The peppers took longer to cook, so in the future I would probably cook them all together, and then handle the onions. I almost unintentionally did that, but the second batch had a few peppers strewn about, taking forever to cook.
After the peppers and onions had cooked, I removed them from the frying pan and added the “sausages.” I started with “sausages” so there would be no cross-contamination later on when I used the same pan for the sausage. I fried the “sausages” just long enough for them to brown, and then sliced them and let them brown further. This act will be more important later, with the real meat.
After “cooking” the sausage, I added half of the peppers and onions to the pan, let it cook for a few minutes, and then removed everything from the pan and put it in an oven-safe dish.
Now it was time to tackle the sausage. Some vegetarians are grossed out by meat, but I, for the most part, am not one of those vegetarians. The meat I’ve dealt with so far has been slimy and cold and generally unappealing in their raw states, but not especially stomach-turning. But the raw sausage was not fun to work with. On top of being slimy and cold, it was a bizarrely, unpleasant texture. It was strangely moldable, and… I don’t know, just a gross consistency—no offense meant to meat eaters. Although meat eaters don’t eat sausage raw, so I think they’d probably agree with me.
First, the entire sausage needed to be browned on both sides. After the initial browning, it was easier to cut the sausage into smaller, more manageable pieces so that each part of the piece could come into contact with the pan better.
After slicing the sausage into pieces, I had to make sure that all of its sides browned. I did this with the “sausage” just for the sake of doing it; as with most fake meats, it really just needed to be heated and not cooked, but I thought doing this would give the “sausage” more flavor. In reality, it probably just dried the “sausage” out. This was a tedious process that involved lots of maneuvering with tongs and lots of squishing the sausage (especially when trying to brown either end) so it would stay on a particular side. I wasn’t convinced that the browning process had cooked the sausage all the way through, but the dish would be finished in the oven so I wasn’t too worried.
I added the peppers and onions and let everything cook together in the frying pan for a bit.
Next the sausage went into the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees; halfway through the “sausage” joined. The time spent in the oven ensured that the sausage was cooked and that all of the flavors got to mix together.
There’s a clear difference in “sausage,” which looks dark and artificial, and sausage, which looks browned and tasty, but I think the “sausage” tastes good. It’s definitely the wrong texture and doesn’t have the snap that I remember cased meats having, but still enjoyable.
The trick to making sausage and pepper sandwiches is to hollow out the Italian bread so you can really stuff things in and slice the sausages/”sausages” in half so they can lay flat. Otherwise, everything falls out of the sandwich and makes a big mess.
The sandwiches still made a big mess, but they were a hit! My parents added hot sauce to theirs, but I just ate mine as is.
And now, I leave you with a better view of my childhood plate artwork, and, as a bonus, you can see the plate that my sister made as well!