Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

With Pesach almost here, I'm taking a break from cleaning my kitchen to share a dish you can make for the seder, chol hamoed, or all-year-round. It's a frequent favorite at my Shabbat table. 

I first saw this dish on Rachael Ray's "30 Minute Meals" on Food Network and thought it sounded interesting. I tried it out according to Rachael's recipe and it was good, but I thought it could be a little better sorry, Rachael, please don't sue me. 

Broccoli rabe  – or rapini, as it is frequently called – is not actually broccoli. It is more closely related to the turnip, actually. Common in dishes in southern Italy, this vegetable is rich in vitamins, but it has a bitter flavor. This can be counteracted, as demonstrated below. It's great on its own sautéed with garlic, but combined with the flavors of the sausage it's fantastic.

I told my mother about the dish after I perfected my recipe and she tried it out one night on my father. They didn't like it. My parents came to me for a Shabbat dinner a few weeks later and I made sausage and broccoli rabe for them. They both liked it and said mom's didn't taste like mine. Turns out she used andouille sausage, which is a smoked sausage used frequently in Cajun cooking. For this dish you want to use spicy Italian sausage, preferably a mix of beef and veal, but beef sausages will do if you're opposed to veal or can't find it. 

As for sausage brands, you have plenty of options. I really like the International sausages, which come uncooked so you have to keep it in the pan a bit longer. Lately, however, I've been using Meal Mart or 999 brand, which are frozen "brown and serve," ie precooked (they are also cheaper, which I like). So I leave the brand up to you, just watch them closely while cooking so you brown them but don't overcook them.

Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

1 large bunch broccoli rabe
Crushed garlic, 3-5 cloves, depending on taste
2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 package spicy Italian beef and veal sausage, approximately 12-16 oz
1/2 a lemon, approximately

Bring a pot of water to a boil on the stove. Wash the broccoli rabe and then cut cross-wise into approximately 2-inch pieces, basically into thirds.

Drop the rabe into the water and let it boil for 5 minutes. Afterward, thoroughly drain the rabe and set it aside. The bitter flavor should have been absorbed by the boiling water, leaving great flavor in the rabe.  If it still tastes a little bitter, don't worry, we'll fix that soon.

Slice the sausages into chunks, lengthwise and then horizontally.

Heat the olive oil in the pan and when it's hot, add the garlic. Stir the garlic and just as it's starting to brown, add the sausage. Stir and cook until the sausage is browned. Add in the broccoli rabe and mix together. Cover and let cook on low to medium flame for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, so the flavors can meld.

Now, if the rabe still tastes a little bitter, add the lemon juice to taste (careful not to get any seeds in the food), which will counteract the bitterness. You may want to do this anyway, as it adds a nice zing. If your palate demands a little more spice, try garnishing with some crushed red pepper flakes.

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