Who doesn’t love the idea of making your own sausage? That is, of course, until you consider that most recipes want you to grind your own meat and stuff your mixture into hog casings! It’s an investment not only in time, but equipment and resources! Well, never has it been so easy to make just about any kind of meat sausage, without a meat grinder, without a sausage stuffer, and without having to track down hog casings! It’s easy, actually pretty fast, too. But when you mix in Tuscany Spice Blend for seasoning, your results are nothing short of super-delicious.
The whole reason I started doing this was to avoid the litany of ingredients I couldn’t pronounce or understand on my kid’s favorite meat sausages. Whether we were buying for breakfast, or for grilling our evening meal, there was just too much of the weird stuff for me to feel good about. Then it dawned on me that my grocer had lots of ground meat options–from chicken and turkey, to pork, veal and, of course, beef. So I started with that and layered in all the tantalizing ingredients that my kids wanted: apples, cheese, spinach, tomatoes. When it came to seasoning, I didn’t have to give it a second thought. Tuscany Spice Blend was in my hand and in my sausage mixture without hesitation. You see, Tuscany Spice Blend has the classic sausage and Italian seasonings in it, like fresh garlic, tomato powder, onion, rosemary, and basil, coriander, cumin, oregano, and thyme. I only have to add fennel.
The sausage patties are easiest, but purists will want sausage links. Instructions are provided to make traditional sausage links without using a meat grinder, sausage casings or a sausage stuffer! I will warn you that they’re not nearly as tasty as the sausage patties simply because you must take the extra step and poach the formed sausage links. During that process, a lot of the fat escapes from the link taking some flavor with it. Trust me, they’re still delicious, but in side by side taste tests the patties won hands down!
Tuscan Chicken Sausage with Feta, Spinach and Sundried Tomatoes
1 pound ground chicken sausage (If you have a meat grinder you can grind your own. Choose fattier pieces, such as the thigh, or be sure to grind up some of the fat and skin into the breast pieces to keep your chicken moist and tender).
1/3 cup Feta cheese crumbles
1/3 cup chopped sweet onion
¼ cup frozen spinach thawed and squeezed dry
¼ cup roasted tomatoes (substitute sundried tomatoes in oil or rehydrated)
1 teaspoon Fennel Seed
3 tablespoons Tuscany Spice Blend (substitute your favorite Italian blend)
Coarse salt and pepper, to season
Place the ground chicken in a large mixing bowl. Add the Feta and mix to incorporate. Place the onions, spinach, and tomatoes into a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until well chopped and combined. Add the mixture to the ground chicken mixture. Add the Fennel Seed and the Tuscany Spice Blend. Using your hands combine until well mixed and all the flavorings are evenly distributed.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Using cold, damp hands form patties using about 1 to 2 tablespoons of the mixture. lace formed patties onto prepared sheet pan. Freeze the patties or cook. To cook, prepare a skillet with a bit of butter and oil over medium heat. Cook the sausage patties about 2 minutes on one side, until well seared then flip. Cook the second side about one minute more. To freeze, place the sheet pan in the freezer. When patties are frozen place in a re-sealable freezer bag. Bring to room temperature before cooking. Note: you can also grill the patties. I recommend direct high heat for about 1 to 2 minutes per side.
To make sausage links without casings or a sausage stuffer:
Lay a sheet of food grade cling film on your work surface. Shape about 1 ½ tablespoons of the mixture into a log. Place the log in the center of the cling film. Bring the edge of the cling film closest to you up and over the formed sausage link. Tuck the loose film around the length of the formed link; smooth and shape the link as you tuck. Roll the link up to the top edge of the cling film. Twist the ends and secure with butcher’s twine; trim the edges of the cling film. Repeat with remaining sausage mixture.
Prepare a poaching bath. Place a large pot of water on the stove top and bring just to a boil. Reduce the heat so that the bubbles barely break the surface. Place the formed sausage links into the bath and gently poach until the oils and fat begin to escape from the sausage, about 12 to 15 minutes. DO NOT BOIL. Remove with tongs and when cool carefully cut the cling film wrappings from the formed links; your sausages are fully cooked at this point. Set aside to cool. Sear off in a pan or on the grill for color. Or, you can freeze the formed links as above.