Friday, July 11, 2008

How to Make Grilled Sausage and Onions or how July 6th became Independence Day

After the emotional rollercoaster of the last two days, Sunday came around and the whole family was exhausted. We didn’t make it to church, I’m sorry to say. No planned apostasy or anything. We just didn’t get up in time. I guess we were missed, though. My home teacher called to check up on me, later in the day.

The nice part about the day was there was nothing to distract me from firing up the new grill. I’m sure that somewhere there’s someone thinking I should feel guilty about not going to church and, worse, grilling outdoors on the Sabbath.

Okay. I do feel a little guilty for not going to church – more sad than guilty, really. But I don’t feel a bit guilty about grilling. I wasn’t throwing a party. This was feeding my family, dagnabbit. Besides, doesn’t delaying gratification for two days to deal with my sick father count for something? Please? (I can justify almost anything.)

I have to admit, I kind of liked grilling with charcoal instead of gas. Yes, it was my first time and I was a little nervous. Playing with fire is both exciting, and dangerous. I don’t think I put enough briquettes in, though. The heat wasn’t quite as high as it probably should have been, so everything took a little longer to cook.

I was anxious to try out some tricks I’d learned from Cooking Illustrated for grilling sausages and onions. As I went along, I realized that I’d have to modify some of them. To start with, I was cooking more sausages than they did. I also didn’t have as big of a grill as they do, so I had to juggle a few things. In the end, the food turned out to be quite delicious. I didn’t even get burned.

Charcoal Grilled Sausages with Onions


3 medium to large yellow onions
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper (or less if you don't like so much pepper)
11- by 9- inch disposable aluminum roasting pan
2 1/2 pounds fresh sausages (about ten links – I used a combination of mild Italian sausage and red wine sausage)

Using a chimney starter or the “pyramid” method, light enough charcoal briquettes to give you a good, solid, single layer of briquettes across the bottom of your grill. For my small grill, that's about 20 to 25. Allow them to burn until fully ignited and partially covered in ash (about 15 to 20 minutes). Build a single level fire by arranging the briquettes evenly across the bottom of your grill. Position the cooking grate over the coals, cover the grill, and heat the grill for about 5 minutes. Take this opportunity to scrape the grill clean with a grill brush or spatula before you put any food on it.

While the briquettes are firing, peel the onions, cut them in half, and then cut into 1 /4 inch slices, pole to pole. Combine the onions, oil, thyme, salt and pepper in a large microwave safe bowl and toss together. Microwave the onion mixture for about five minutes to begin the cooking process. Stir it once about half way through the cooking, and then again when done. Transfer to the disposable roasting pan, and spread evenly across the bottom.

Prick the skins of the sausages in several places with a fork or sharp knife to let the excess fat flow out during cooking. Arrange the sausages over the onions in a single layer, and cover the top of the pan, tightly, with aluminum foil. Cooking the sausages this way, to start, allows them to help flavor the onions, and reduces flare-ups because much of the fat has already seeped into the onions.

Place the roasting pan on the center of the grill and cover. Cook for about 15 to 18 minutes. Move the pan to the side of the grill and carefully remove the foil. Using tongs, remove the sausages from the pan and place on the grill. Grill them, uncovered, for about seven minutes, turning every so often, until golden brown on all sides. Transfer the sausages to a platter and lightly tent with aluminum foil to keep them warm. Cover the grill and continue cooking the onions until most of the liquid evaporates and the onions begin to brown, about ten more minutes. Give them an occasional stir just to make sure they cook evenly.

Serve the sausages on good buns, smothered in mustard and cooked onions. Serves 5 or 6, depending on how may sausages they want to eat.

NOTE: Because I didn't get the heat right to begin with, it took longer to cook the sausages than the recipe called for. That's okay. One thing I've learned is that you need to adjust things once in a while.

Because my grill was small, I also didn't have enough room on my grill for both the sausages and roasting pan. I did have a small heating rack that folded up in the grill when it was covered. There was enough room over the sausages to not interfere with them when I closed the top so, I folded up the sides of the roasting pan, to reduce it's vertical signature, and placed it on top of the heating rack, and then covered the grill while the sausages were grilling outside of the pan. It created a kind of two-tiered oven arrangement. I had to support the heating rack with my tongs as I was closing the lid on the grill, but it seemed to work pretty well.

After grilling the sausages, I didn't leave the onions on the grill as long as I could have. They weren't browning very well because I just didn't have enough heat to begin with, let alone after several minutes of grill time. I realized that, after a while, all I was really doing was keeping them warm. If I'd started with a hotter fire, and more charcoal, I think the onions would have browned a bit more.

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