Sausages & Plums Braised in Red Wine

Sausages & Plums Braised in Red Wine
 
As you’re cutting up the plums for this recipe, taste a piece. If the plums are on the sour side (as some early-season varieties are), add a pinch of sugar to the braise to bring out their sweetness. If plums aren’t in season make the dish with grapes (see the variation that follows). Since there’s no stock in the braising liquid to round out the flavor of the wine, it’s important here to use a wine that really tastes good to you. I particularly like using a lightly fruity but dry Beaujolais—a real Beaujolais, not the raw-tasting Nouveau Beaujolais that shows up every November. Serve with polenta or sautéed potatoes and a baguette or other crusty bread to sop up every last bit of the gorgeous magenta-hued sauce. It’s too good to leave any behind. Pass a simple tossed arugula or spinach salad at the table.
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Ingredients
  • 1 pound ripe purple or red plums, such as Santa Rosa or Italian (or grapes, see variation that follows)
  • 1¾ to 2 pounds sweet Italian sausages (with or without fennel seed)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced (about 3 scant tablespoons)
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1½ teaspoons minced fresh sage or ½ teaspoon rubbed sage
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of sugar, if needed
  • ⅔ cup light, fruity dry red wine, such as Beaujolais, Dolcetto, or Pinot Noir
Instructions
  1. The plums: Working over a bowl to collect the juices, cut the plums into ½-inch wedges, tasting a piece to judge their sweetness, and letting them drop into the bowl. If the plums are not freestone, you’ll have to cut the flesh away from the pits with a knife. Set aside.
  2. Browning the sausages: If the sausages are linked together, separate the links with a sharp paring knife or a pair of scissors. Prick each link in several places with the tip of a sharp knife (this will prevent the sausages from exploding). Heat the oil in a large lidded skillet or shallow braising pan (12-inch is a good choice) over medium-high heat until the oil slides easily across the pan. Add the sausages and fry them, turning frequently with tongs, until a medium brown crust has formed on at least three sides, 10 to 12 minutes total. Using tongs, so as not to pierce the casings further, transfer the sausages to a large plate, without stacking.
  3. The aromatics: Depending on how fatty the sausages are, there may or may not be an excess of fat in the pan. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon, return the pan to medium heat, and add the shallot. Stir immediately with a wooden spoon, and sauté just until the shallot begins to brown, about 1 minute. Add the garlic and sage, stir again, and sauté until fragrant, another 30 seconds or so. Add the plums and all of their juices. Season with salt, pepper, and pinch of sugar if the plums tasted tart. Stir and sauté until the juices begin to sizzle, about 2 minutes.
  4. The braising liquid: Pour in the wine, increase the heat to medium-high, and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom of the pan to dislodge any precious cooked-on bits that will enrich the flavor of the braising liquid. Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes to meld the flavors some.
  5. The braise: Return the sausages to the pan, nestling them down so they are surrounded by the plums. Add any juices that may have accumulated on the plate. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to a very gentle simmer. Check after 5 minutes to make sure that the wine is not simmering too excitedly. If it is, lower the heat or put a heat diffuser beneath the pan. Continue braising gently, turning the sausages after 15 minutes, until the sausages are cooked all the way through, 25 to 30 minutes total. Check for doneness by piercing a sausage with a skewer or meat fork to see if the juices run clear. If you are unsure, nick a sausage with a small knife and peer inside to see that there is no pink left.
  6. The finish: Transfer the sausages with tongs to a serving platter. Lift the plums from the pan with a slotted spoon and arrange them around the sausages. Cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Return the braising liquid to the stove. Taste and evaluate the sauce. Depending on how juicy the plums and sausages were, you may or may not need to reduce the sauce: it should be the consistency of a thick vinaigrette. If necessary, bring to a strong simmer over medium-high heat, and simmer for 2 to 4 minutes to thicken and concentrate the flavor. I don’t bother skimming this sauce, since the fat from the sausages is integral in balancing the taste, but it never tastes oily or fatty. Taste for salt and pepper. The sauce is meant to be slightly sharp to offset the rich taste of the pork sausage. Pour the sauce over the sausages and plums, and serve.
Notes
VARIATION: SAUSAGES & GRAPES BRAISED IN RED WINE

Substitute whole seedless red or purple table grapes for the plums. Add them in place of the plums in Step 3. Most grapes are sweet enough on their own so as not to need the pinch of sugar. Taste and judge for yourself.

 

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