It's Not the Nitrous Talking: Chicken and Sausage Together Rocks

Categories: Food News
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Photo by Flickr user beckahari

When I was a strapping young buck of 20 or so, I spent my summers cooking at an array of restaurants in a resort town in New York. I cooked for the same reason a lot of people did: so I could go out all night, go to the beach all day, and wander unshowered into work in the afternoon. It was the perfect working environment for the bunch of miscreants that I cooked with. Not only could you drink on the job; it was expected. And don't get me started on the clams oreganata-marijuana that a fellow cook and I would make (really, don't -- for some reason I don't remember it very well).

I came out of those summers almost as clueless about cooking as I went in, which is to be expected when it's not about the quality of food; it's about hanging out,
acting cooler than the waitrons, and getting tight with the bartenders. But there was one guy, Andrew his name was, who wasn't there to drink, chase girls, and sneak into the walk-in to drain the whipped cream chargers of nitrous. Or at least not just to drink and chase girls, because Andrew had actually gone to cooking school and cared about food. The nitrous was never an issue with Andrew -- flaccid whipped cream pissed him off because he had a thing for pastry. Sure, he wrecked a few cars and passed out in a few strange places, but he also taught me the value of what I thought was an unlikely pairing. No, not Charlie Crist and Carole Rome. I'm talking chicken and sausage.

The first time Andrew put those two together was at a poker party in the house a few of us ne'er-do-wells shared in Amagansett -- a house that was rumored, we found out later, to have been under surveillance by the local P.D. (either it wasn't or the local cops were completely inept -- I give each an equal chance). I lost a huge hand to Andrew that night but completely got hooked on mixing poultry and swine.

So this week, I'm going to give you two great ways to do the chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter thing, but with sausage and chicken: the couscous dish that Andrew made, and a gumbo.

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Photo by Flickr user normah

Chicken and Sausage Couscous

This is the one that started it all for me. It's relatively easy, delicious, and keeps for days. It's also mutated over the years, but the basics remain the same. Start by browning a pound of lump Italian sausage, drain, and set aside. Melt a knob of butter in a large pot that has a top, then toss in a chopped sweet onion, one or two chopped green peppers, and a ton of garlic. Once it's all good and soft, add four cups of chicken broth, two bay leaves, two chopped jalapenos, salt, and pepper. Bring it to a boil and add the pulled meat of a chicken (a rotisserie one works well), then reduce the heat and cook slowly until the chicken is cooked through and tender. Add the sausage, 20 ounces of couscous, and a couple of handfuls of golden raisins. Stir well, remove from heat and cover tightly for five minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve immediately with hot sauce.

Photo by Flickr user foooooey
The roux: Every good gumbo begins with it.

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Bone and shred a cooked chicken and set the meat aside. Now get to work on your roux: Heat a cup of vegetable oil in a cast-iron pot, then whisk in a cup of flour. Keep whisking about ten minutes until the roux cooks to a light brown. Take your time, and don't let it burn. Stir in a chopped bell pepper, an onion, and a celery stalk. Add a pound of andouille or smoked sausage that's been cut into quarter-inch slices. Cook for five minutes, then add six cups of chicken broth, five cloves of chopped garlic, salt, black pepper, a couple of bay leaves, and some Creole seasoning (cayenne, paprika, oregano, thyme, garlic powder, and onion powder). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for an hour. Add the chicken and continue to simmer for another hour, skimming any foam that floats to the surface. Serve hot over rice.

I haven't seen Andrew in a decade and haven't worked in a restaurant in two, but I do remember a couple of important lessons from those days: Chicken and sausage are great together, and watching a pastry chef throw yet another whipped cream charger across the kitchen after it dribbles unwhipped cream all over a dessert never gets old.

Bradford Schmidt is The Meatist. He's also author of the blog Bone in the Fan. He lives in northern Palm Beach County and can be found lurking near walk-in freezers.

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