Sometimes the story behind a given dish is complicated. This is one of those recipes, though the recipe is is easy as can be. I'm particularly proud of it because it's rather original and I got a number of compliments on it and even a couple of requests for the recipe. It's spicy fennel flavored Italian sausages roasted with vinegar-marinated pears and onions. The resulting dish has spicy, savory and sweet flavors and can be made for as many or as few people as you like. It's a perfect dish for Fall.
It represents my favorite type of recipe because it takes very little time, few ingredients and techniques but yields something absolutely delicious. I think you could call it foolproof. It can also be varied pretty easily--add other fruit, seasonings, vegetables, or different kinds of sausages. Here are the steps that lead to the recipe:
1. My initial motivation was to make something savory with pears. My mom has a pear tree that went a little crazy this year so I had quite a few pears to use. In Marin County this is not an unusual occurrence.
2. I had a food blogger potluck to attend and I wanted something that would feed a crowd.
3. It was "Eat Local Challenge Month" and I feared the wrath of those who would question the provenance of my offering. The last thing I needed was a blog post blaming me for ruining their day!
4. What could I do to make pears, savory? Vinegar! I have made this recipe twice and it works with port wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar. I think you need something rich and dark, don't use supermarket red wine vinegar. Actually avoid supermarket red wine vinegar in general, it's terrible.
5. I wanted everything in the dish to be roasted, but not too saucy. My biggest innovation was to marinate the pears and onions in vinegar, but to roast them on a baking sheet.
6. Success! This recipe worked well the very first go, perhaps because it builds on the success of other recipes. Looking back I can say it was somewhat influenced by Mark Bittman's Sausages and Grapes recipe and also by a Grilled Chicken Sausage and Red Pear Skewer recipe.
Note: I used Fra'Mani Fully Cooked Spicy Italian Sausage I got from Costco. They are completely cooked and very good. If you wanted to use a raw sausage I would cut it into chunks and roast it for 10-15 minutes before adding the fruit.
Roasted Sausages and Pears
for 2 people:
2 fully cooked Italian sausages (but I bet it would be good with Kielbasa too)
2 firm pears, peeled and cored
1/4 cup balsamic or port wine vinegar (you really just need enough to make sure everything is mostly submersed)
1 small onion, optional
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut each pear into 4 - 6 chunks. Place in a very small bowl or plastic bag and add the vinegar to marinate. Allow to marinate at room temperature for about 15 minutes. If you are using an onion, cut it into smaller chunks and break them up into individual pieces and add them to the marinade.
Cut the sausages into 4 - 5 pieces each. Line a baking sheet, preferably rimmed, with aluminum foil and place the pears and onions on the pan. Dunk the sausages into the vinegar to coat them, then place them randomly on the pan as well. Bake for 15 minutes or until pears are soft and sausages are beginning to get crusty.
Serve with a baguette and a spinach salad.