Has anyone seen the March issue of Food and Wine magazine? I just about drooled when I saw the amazing picture of the baked chicken and sausage dish sprawled on the entire spread of page 158. Hmmn, a Nigella Lawson recipe. I have heard both negative and positive feedbacks on her cooking but have been pretty neutral about her so far – except when I wish I can be half as seductive as she is when she samples her food 😉
Anyway, before we end up discussing Nigella and her other er …endowments, let us focus back on the dish, shall we?
Seriously, how can sausage in any dish go wrong? I remember one time, I was making cheesy grits, and it appeared to be lacking a depth of flavor. After I added the sausage, the flavors pulled together like magic. Do you know why? It’s the animal fat. Whether we admit it or not, that’s where all the good stuff is, baby!
If you live in Richmond, I get my sweet Italian sausage from the Belmont Butchery. This place is awesome and it is high time we have an establishment like this in the area. They sell awesome charcuterie and I managed to score some pork fat (for rendering) to use in my next round of confit-making. I heard their butcher trained somewhere in Europe; no, it’s not Bill Buford.
These are signs of a return to the old days. The days when you can have your butcher provide you with cut-to-order meat and phenomenal home-made charcuterie. The days when you find chicken that were less than 4 lbs. And the days when fruits and vegetables did not resemble produce belonging to the Land of the Giants.
I also like getting a whole chicken and cutting it up myself. This forces me to practice some knife skills. It may sound weird, but I find great satisfaction in dissecting an entire fowl and knowing that I can use every single part of it – whether it is for the meal at hand or for making a stock later. (I would, however, draw the line in butchering one myself. And I don’t think the “hungry” hubby would be pleased if I “chickened” out at the last minute because I got squeamish, left the knife half impaled in the poor chicken’s neck and abandoned him to finish the job as executioner.)
Anyway on a less graphic note, this is one of the simplest chicken dishes I have ever made. I find it very flexible with high approval ratings in the taste and time department. I have typed up the recipe as it appeared in the Food and Wine magazine. My slight modifications are in the cooking notes.
One-pan Chicken, Sausage and Sage bake
By Nigella Lawson, F&W magazine March 2007
1 lemon, halved
2 small onions, peeled and quartered through the root ends
½ cup pure olive oil
2 tsp. dry mustard
1 tbs dried sage
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
Freshly ground pepper
One 4-pound chicken, cut into 10 pieces
12 sweet Italian sausages
2 tbsp chopped fresh sage
Squeeze the lemon halves into a large resealable plastic bag. Cut each lemon half into 4 pieces and add to the bag along with the onions, olive oil, mustard, dried sage and Worcestershire sauce; season with pepper. Seal the bag and squish the ingredients together until well mixed. Add the chicken pieces to the bag and coat thoroughly. Refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 425 °F. Let the chicken stand at room temperature in the marinade for 30 minutes. Pour the contents of the bag into a large roasting pan. Turn the chicken pieces skin side up and season with salt. Arrange the sausages around the chicken and sprinkle all over with the fresh sage. Bake for 1 hour, until the chicken and the sausage are browned; turn the sausages halfway through the cooking. Transfer the chicken, sausages, onions and lemons to a platter, drizzle with some of the pan juices and serve.
As Nigella stated in the preface to this recipe, this dish is very flexible. So go crazy! For my part I added 6 cloves of garlic to the marinade and excluded the dried sage. I try not to use dried herbs except oregano because this simply does not compare to using fresh. (The exception of oregano is because this is the only herb that develops better taste when dried.)
Aside from fresh sage, I sprinkled fresh thyme and would have used marjoram if I had any. I was not able to marinate it overnight but only for 4 hours.
With a dish this simple, it is very important to use good ingredients. I chose a chicken that was around 3 ½ pounds at the most. I find that these smaller ones have the best flavor and enough fat to meat ratio to withstand a high-temperature bake and still maintain their juiciness. There is not much you can do with the flavor of the sausage except to be certain that it is from a good purveyor. I was pleased with the one I got from Belmont Butchery because it was not too salty and the spices in it did not overpower the essence of the meat.
What I will like to do next time is to add the salt with the marinade and let it sit for 24 hours. I will also add an extra lemon since I did not quite taste it in the chicken. The one mystery is the dry mustard. I have no idea what it adds to the final product.
I got to hand it to Nigella, this chicken-sausage bake is a real winner and one I could encourage my friends to try at home!