Easy Homemade Breakfast Sausage & Sausage Gravy

BSausage_Frying

I don’t like most of the commercially available breakfast sausages all that much. I often find them a bit too salty and a bit too sagey. I remember how much I loved my uncles breakfast sausage after he would butcher a hog in the fall. I wondered if I couldn’t come up with something. I’ve made Italian sausage and Mexican chroizo before, I had sage in my pantry, why not? I started with several other peoples recipes–most notably Alton Brown. Some recipes added other herbs (rosemary, parsley and marjoram), some didn’t have added sugar, some used fresh herbs–I used dry. I then modified and tweaked my recipe until I found a formula I liked best. Not too salty. Not too sagey. No need for special equipment. Really simple and easy to make.

  • 1 pound of ground pork
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon sage (I go ¾)
  • ½ teaspoon thyme (I probably use a little less than a full ½ teaspoon)
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I use a whole teaspoon)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1¼ teaspoon salt

BSausage_MEP

I put all the ingredients except the pork into a bowl and mix them together well. Then I add the pork and try to incorporate the seasonings without mixing it top much. I just of just keep breaking apart the ground meat until all the seasonings are mixed in. Then you need to let it sit in the refrigerator for a couple hours (or overnight) for the flavorings to be drawn into the meat. Then make patties or use it loose to make sausage gravy.

Super Easy Sausage Gravy

CountryGravy2I know how to make proper, homemade sausage gravy. It’s not difficult. It does take some time with having to create a roux. If I am cooking for a lot of people, I just go ahead and make the regular milk gravy. But I love legitimate kitchen shortcuts and this is a good one. One day I happened to notice at the grocery store that the packet country gravy uses water and not milk. I bought a couple packets to try for those times I don’t have any milk and want sausage gravy.

I started out by browning off about a half a pound of sausage. After removing the meat (leaving the fat and browned bits), dump 2 cups of water into the pan followed whisking in the gravy powder until smooth. Bring back to a boil and cook for one minute. Stir the browned sausage back into the gravy and you’re done.

BSausage_Gravy

Even though biscuits are traditional, I often eat this gravy over toast. My favorite is to fry up a couple of patties for the side and a couple of eggs to go right on top of the biscuits (or toast) and gravy.

BSausage_Gravy_Eggs

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Noi’s Spicy Tuna Salad (Fuji Style) ยำสลัดทูน่าสไตล์ฟูจิของหน่อย

OriginalFujiTunaSalad2Fuji is a chain of Japanese style restaurants ubiquitous in Thailand. I am not sure how authentic the Japanese food is, but I love this restaurant. Click here to see their menu. When Nok (rhymes with Coke) and I go there, she always orders their spicy tuna salad. Just last week I was in Thailand and as we were eating at Fuji, Nok mentioned that Noi (rhymes with boy) knows how to make the tuna salad. I asked Nok to get Noi to send the recipe in Thai and I would translate it (yes, I read Thai), make it and post it on my recipe site. This is the fruit of that labor.

TunaSalad_MEP

  • 1 can of chunk tuna fish (albacore is good for this one), drained. Noi’s recipe called for one packed in oil, but I made it using the spring water variety.
  • Lettuce, about a quarter to a third of a medium head of iceberg, chopped or ripped into bite-sized pieces. Fuji uses iceberg, I used green leaf and iceberg, but I think you can use any salad greens or mixture of greens you like.
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes, 1/2 cup, halved.
  • Japanese or Asian cucumbers, 1/2 cup, thinly sliced. You could probably use any type of cucumber. The Asian ones are smaller, both in length and girth, than the typical American ones. They also have less water and a smaller seed to meat ratio. If you are using the American variety, you should slice them thin and then half them into semicircles.
  • Lemongrass, about a tablespoon or two, very, very thinly sliced. As thin as you can possibly get it. Mandolin slicers work really well for this.
  • Thai mouse poop chilies, one tablespoon or two (I use 2). You can use any small chili peppers you can get. At the Asian market near me, they just call these “Thai chilies”.
  • 1 small lime. Use the Asian variety if you can find them. A key lime is basically the Asian variety (I think). If you can’t find Asian limes, you probably only need half of the larger “regular” ones.
  • Mayonnaise, about a 1/4 cup. Kewpie variety might be traditional in Japan, but Noi used Thai salad cream, which is very sweet. I think any mayonnaise you like will work, but it will change the flavor a little bit.
  • Daikon radish sprouts, about 1 tablespoon. This is sort of optional. I found them at my local H-Mart. But it was $2.50 for a small container so I didn’t bother. I don’t think you need to substitute something for it either.
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon salt.
  • 1-3 teaspoons of sugar–I go 3 teaspoons which also equals a tablespoon. Noi’s recipe did not call for sugar, but she used the Thai-style sweet salad cream. I used Kewpie and needed to add the sugar.
  • Mint leaves for garnish. (optional)

Tuna_middle

In a bowl, add the mayonnaise, lime juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and sugar and mix well. Taste it now. It should be a little sour, a tiny bit sweet and salty enough to season the rest of the ingredients. Adjust seasoning as needed before going to the next step. Now add 2/3 of the chili, the lemongrass plus the tuna and mix gently. You don’t want the tuna to be completely broken down–should have some chunk left in it. Next add cucumbers, lettuce and 2/3 of the tomatoes. Toss gently to coat. Put the salad on a plate. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 of chilies and tomatoes, then the daikon radish sprouts. Garnish with mint leaves. That’s it!

Tuna_Done

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How to Make Thai Sticky Rice ข้าวเหนียว and Toasted Rice Powder ข้าวคั่ว

This is part 2 of a four part series that should have been posted 4 months ago. New job and a month in Thailand has me neglecting my blog. BTW, this is now going to be a 5 part series as I’ve worked out my version of nam jim jaew with tamarind, where as the first version is lime.StickyRice_Traditional

This post is about Southeast Asian sticky rice. This should not be confused with Japanese or Korean sticky rice. Those rices use a more traditional rice with a soaking stage that produces a stickier rice rather than fluffy one. Southeast Asian sticky rice is also used in Japan, China and Korea but they call it “sweet rice”, (I think) generally because it’s mainly used for desserts/sweet dishes. In Thailand, particularly in the North and Northeast regions, this is the main staple rice, not jasmine rice, and is served with savory dishes. I will be posting my Thai grilled pork (หมูย่าง) recipe soon. That goes great with sticky rice!

MangoStickyRice

The Thais use it for desserts too. Ever had mango like the picture above? That’s this kind of rice.

SticyRicePotThis is how to make that sticky rice in a rather non-traditional manner. The traditional manner involves this picture to the right. I actually have one of those things. They work. It’s the classic. It’s also at my Mom’s house in Utah.

Why don’t I have it here? It’s big. It’s funky shaped. My condo isn’t that big. And the only thing it’s good for is making sticky rice. (Unitaskers? Ain’t nobody got time for that, right, Alton?)

If you want to see how to make sticky rice the traditional way, go over to ImportFood.Com and this link right here. Also, ImportFood.Com has all the Thai ingredients, including sticky rice, that you could ever want. My traditional cooker, mentioned above, was purchased from them. They also have a section of videos of Thai street food vendors, cooking up their ImportFood.Comdeliciousness with English narration. Find the video tab at the top. And make some purchases while you’re at it. This is a great company with reasonable prices. I like supporting businesses like this. (No, they did not pay me to say any of these things. I’ve just been a customer for over 10 years and genuinely like them.)

An excellent Thai food blog is SheSimmers.Com. I highly recommend you check it out. It is so much better than mine–though I was happy (proud?) to find our recipes on several Thai dishes are very close. She had a post on how to make sticky rice without the traditional equipment using a splatter guard, a regular saute pan and a stainless steel bowl. It’s brilliant. That method can be found right here.

OK, enough with the plugs. On to my method…

Aroma_RiceCooker_Steamer

I have an “Aroma Rice Cooker / Food Steamer”, just like above. They include this steamer basket that sits above the rice as it cooks. I haven’t cooked meat in mine, but I have cooked vegetables there from time to time. Now I steam my sticky rice with it. Here’s how you do it.

StickRice_ThreeLadiesFirst you need to buy sticky rice. I’m going to say this again–you cannot make this kind of sticky rice with regular rice!

You need to rinse the rice just like you would for jasmine or other types of rice. What!? You don’t rinse your rice before you cook it? Stop that! Rinse all types of rice 3 to 4 times before cooking. The gets rid of dust, extra starch, rice bran powder leftover from when the hull was removed. Always, always, always rinse your rice.

After rinsing, I put the rice in the main rice cooker part and cover with several inches of cold water. You should let it soak about 8 hours, give or take a couple. Sometimes I’ve let it soak for up to 12 hours with good results. If you do not have 8 hours, there is a cheat. Use the hottest tap water you can and let it soak 3-4 hours. It’s not quite as good that way, but it’s better than no sticky rice. After soaking, drain the rice and put it in a bowl–we’re going to get right back to it.

Next, clean out the rice cooker pot and put in about 3 inches of water. Then put the steamer basket in place. You’ll notice the steamer basket has huge holes where the rice would fall right through. You gotta do something about that. You could use cheesecloth or muslin, but the first time I went to make this, I couldn’t find cheesecloth anywhere. When did Safeway stop carrying cheesecloth? I was considering using a clean kitchen towel but happened to notice my basket-style coffee filters on the counter. Eureka! When I flattened out the filter it fit perfectly into the steamer basket like it was designed to work that way. So down goes the coffee filter, in pours in the rice and I level it out. BTW, you can use cheesecloth. Just cover the basket with the cloth and leave enough to wrap around the entire thing.

StickyRIceSteaming

Then just close the lid and run a cycle. Mine goes for about 45 minutes which seems to cook it properly. About half way through I use a spatula to flip the rice over. I usually can only get about a quarter of the rice flipped each time and then I level it out again. Close the lid and let it finish steaming. If you use cheesecloth, the flip can be done all at once. If after a cycle the rice is still not done, just run another cycle–but keep checking it. It won’t take 1.5 hours to steam. Check to make sure you haven’t run out of water too. If you have just add more.

That is pretty much it. I usually turn off the cooker and scoop out a portion of the rice and then close the lid to keep it warm and moist. Sticky rice will get cold and hard very quickly, so I usually pull out only 5-10 minutes worth of eating and leave the rest inside. If your batch does become cold, just steam it for 5 minutes or so and it will bring it right back.

Toasted Rice Powder ข้าวคั่ว

Toasted rice powder, khao kua, is an ingredient in several Thai dishes. Most notably, laab (ลาบ), yum nam tok (น้ำตก) and jaew (น้ำจิ้มแจ่ว) dipping sauces (my 1st jaew recipe is here). You can buy it already made in small jars like McCormick spices, but it’s kind of expensive and if you already have sticky rice, it’s easy to make.

Powder_Just_Started

Start with a dry pan over medium heat (can be non-stick I guess, but I use my tri-clad) and put as much uncooked rice as you want to make powder. I usually cover the pan. This is more than I would use at one time, but the stuff stores well for several weeks. Then slowly dry roast it, like you might for spices, for the next 10-20 minutes. Keep shaking and pan-flipping every minute or so. Do not let it burn! Once it’s a nice brown color (and fragrant. Kind of reminds me of the smell of popcorn). Take it off the heat and allow to cool. Once cool, simply chuck it into a food processor or a coffee grinder and grind it until it’s little coarser than corn meal. Don’t take it all the way to a fine powder. And that’s it. Easy, easy, easy. Just takes a little time.

Powder_A;most_Done

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Nam Jim Jaew น้ำจิ้มแจ่ว Recipe 1

Jeaw1

This is the first of a five part series on Northern and Northeastern Thai dishes. The other three will be “Moo Yang (Moo Yahng, Mu Yang or หมูย่าง), Nam Prik Ong น้ำพริกอ่อง, Nam Jim Jaew #2 (tamarind version) and one encompassing the two topics “How to make Thai sticky rice easily at home” and “How to make toasted rice power ข้าวคั่ว”.

NamJimGaiThis sauce is one of my favorites from Thailand. Everyone probably knows the “Thai Sweet Chili Sauce” or nam jim gai, literally translates as “dipping sauce for chicken”, but nam jim jaew (sort of rhymes with cow) is almost as common. If you get grilled chicken in Thailand you will get both of these sauces every time.  There are actually two different kinds (maybe more?) of jaew that I used to get. This is one of those types. The second type has tamarind in it and that’s a different show.

I made this just yesterday to take to a buddy’s birthday party and I got several requests for the recipe. So here it is.

  • 2 limes, one juiced, one extra in case you need more sour
  • 1-2 tablespoons dried red pepper flakes
  • cilantro, a handful, chopped as finely as you can
  • Shallots, 1 “normal” sized bulb, sliced very thin then cut though a couple times.
  • 5-6 tablespoons very fresh fish sauce (for this one, Tiparos brand or see my note on fish sauce at the end of this recipe)
  • 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar (or palm sugar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon toasted rice power ข้าวคั่ว (you can buy this or make it yourself recipe here)

I start by mixing the juice of one lime, 5 tablespoons of fish sauce and 1.5 to 2 tablespoons of brown sugar in a bowl to let the sugar dissolve and then move on to prepping the cilantro and shallot. BTW, technique, a mandolin (“V”) slicer set on it thinnest setting is perfect for the shallots. After sliced thin, just run your knife through it a couple times and it’s good. With the cilantro, you want it chopped as fine as you can get it, but don’t make a paste out of it.

Once the sugar has dissolved taste the mixture. It should be sweet, salty and sour. If you haven’t had this sauce before, I don’t know how to guide you. If you have, adjust sugar, fish sauce and lime juice as you like it. Next, add the cilantro, shallots, black pepper and 1 or 2 tablespoons of red pepper flake (I use 2 and it’s still not that spicy). I also use regular old Italian style red pepper flakes but any coarse ground red pepper should work though I wouldn’t use cayenne, I think that would be way too hot.

What_Platter

Nam jim jaew in the upper right with grilled pork, sticky rice and nam prik ong in the center

For this amount, I would probably serve half at a time. Just before serving (half), stir in half the the toasted rice powder and mix thoroughly. Once the rice is in the clock is ticking. You have at least an hour, but at some point after that, the rice powder will get saturated and soggy and no longer good eats. Thus the serving it in portions and adding the rice at the last moment. Serve with sticky rice and any grilled meat like moo yang.

Fish Sauce น้ำปลา

TiparosOK, let’s talk fish sauce. First off brands. I use Tiparos pretty much exclusively. If you cook much Thai or Vietnamese food you will know there are many, many types of fish sauce out there. I have not tried them all. In Thailand, Tiparos brand is ubiquitous in use to an extent much greater than say Heinz Ketchup here in the States. I only remember ever seeing two other brands in people’s actual kitchens in Thailand–Squid brand and the one with the scales on the label (cannot remember the name). And I saw the Squid brand only once (and no, there is no squid in Squid brand fish sauce). I think if you are cooking with a fish sauce it doesn’t matter as much which brand you use. Once in pinch, I bought a bottle of Oyster Nampla fish sauce (and no, there are no oysters in Oyster brand fish sauce) and discovered it’s the worst fish sauce ever–but I still used it for cooking for a week or two until I bought some Tiparos.

But this recipe is using fish sauce raw. It’s the base flavor. I would not have used Oyster brand or any other “not-so-good” fish sauce in a raw fish sauce dish. The same would apply to “prik nam pla” (fish sauce with sliced mouse poop chilies). Raw fish sauce needs to be good quality fish sauce.

Different fish sauces also have different salinity. Squid brand is a good quality fish sauce, but is noticeably saltier than Tiparos. So if you were to make this with Squid brand, you would need to use less of it.

Lastly, on freshness. If you have an opened bottle of fish sauce in your cupboard/larder, get up right now and throw it away. Unless you just opened it yesterday, in which case, get up right now and put it in the refrigerator right away. Fish sauce stays in the refrigerator, got it?🙂

Of course it won’t stay fresh in your refrigerator forever. It will easily keep 3-4 months, probably longer. You can tell the status of your fish sauce by holding it up to a light and looking through. It should be iced tea colored. Not Coke color or (oh, gawd no) coffee color. Make sure you check the bottle before buying them too–and check the expiration dates. All Thai food products will have made and expiration dates on them. Again, since this is a raw fish sauce dish, I recommend using a bottle opened less than a month or just go buy a fresh bottle before making it.

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Crab Rangoon Deep Fried Wontons

FriedWonton_Done

I’ve been making this one for years, even before I moved to Thailand–though they loved them there. Thais thought putting cheese in a fried wonton was weird–until they tasted them. It was far and away the most requested dish to make by my Thai friends.

A facebook post from my sister reminds me that SHE taught me this recipe. Though I’ve changed it enough to call it my own, at this point. But shouts out to sis for getting it started…

  • 8 oz. imitation crab meat (I prefer chunk style), roughly chopped
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 1/4 red or yellow onion, very finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon parsley
  • 1 package wonton wrappers
  • Vegetable oil for deep frying

WontonFilling

Mix all ingredients except wonton wrappers and vegetable oil. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

PrepWonton

Next, place a small portion in the center of a wonton wrapper.

Heath_Makin_Wontons

Have a bowl of water nearby. Dip your finger and wet the entire outside edge of wonton. Fold over and work out as much air from inside while pressing together.

ReadyForFry

Fry at 375 degrees until brown. Everything in there is already cooked, so just get the color right and you’re done. Drain on paper towels and serve with duck sauce/plum sauce/Thai chicken dipping sauce–any thing you’d use for a spring roll or fried wonton.

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Italian Style Baked Spinach and Cheese ผักโขมอบชีส สิบสามเหรียญ

Spinach_doneThis is indeed another kitchen shortcut, but I kinda like those. You could make your own creamed spinach, but this is really a way to add another dish to your table without taking a lot of effort.

This recipe was inspired by ผักโขมอบชีส (spinach baked with cheese) at 13 Coins Restaurants in Bangkok, Thailand, a favorite local restaurant that straddled the line between a Thai restaurant and an American one. We used to order the baked spinach every time we ate there. The last time I saw Nan Jibson, she asked if I knew how to make this dish. I told her I did and that I would post the recipe soon. It only took 5 months.🙂

  • 2 packages Bird’s Eye Steamfresh Lightly Sauced Creamed Spinach, 11 oz (or equivalent amount of another creamed spinach product be it purchased or home-made)
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced. (Can use grated or other types of mozzarella, but fresh is really nice in this one)
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/16 to 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg. If you only have ground nutmeg, throw it in the trash can and omit the ingredient.😀
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Spaghetti/tomato sauce, whatever kind you like, shouldn’t be too chunky though

Spinach_Birds Eye

Microwave the spinach packets as directed but don’t cook them the full time. Make sure the spinach is just hot. Probably shave 30 seconds to 1 minute off the cooking time of one bag. Then pour the spinach into a large sieve and allow to drain for 10 minutes or it looks like it’s not going to give up any more liquid.

spinach_assemble

You may notice in these pictures, I am only making one packet of spinach. I used the other side of my baking dish to roast an Italian sausage at the same times as the spinach. Why not?🙂

Transfer the spinach to a baking dish. Mix in 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, nutmeg and black pepper then smooth/level out. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan cheese on top. Add a layer of tomato sauce. Cover with the slices of mozzarella and bake in a 400 degree oven until hot and bubbly. Let sit for a few minutes before serving.

Spinach_ready for oven

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Thailand Inspired Smoked Link Sausage / Hot Dog Sandwich

Sausage Hoagie RollsI reckon it does sound strange to read both “Thailand” and “hot dog” in a recipe title. One of the many surprises I had during my first visit to Bangkok, was visiting a Tesco supermarket and seeing the “hot dog” deli counter. Oh my. There were over 100 varieties, and only one of them is really what we would call a “hot dog”. Some of my favorites were bacon and cheese ones as well as the German-styled brats wrapped in bacon.

Smoked Link BolThere were also stalls set up on the streets and sometimes inside the supermarkets that would grill sausages/hot dogs for take away. Thais mostly eat their tubular meat with a bamboo stick/skewer. The hot dog buns are of course used for ice cream. That is not a joke. They sell ice cream on hot dog buns instead of cones. Here’s a link to see what I’m talking about. But I digress.🙂

Some vendors though actually made sandwiches with their sausages. I remember two places in Bangkok and one in Hua Hin that had particularly tasty ones and all three made theirs about like this recipe.

Sausages_MEP

  • Sausages Package4 Smoked link sausages, I used Virginia Smoked Link Sausages from T.O. Williams, but a bun sized kielbasa, a half-smoke, any type of sausage that’s fully cooked or smoked will work, even a hot dog–though I’d say that’s the worst pick.
  • 4 bolillo or hoagie rolls or any soft roll larger than a hot dog bun. Get as fresh as you can! If the bread is not already cut, I make a slit and a pocket for the filling but not cutting all the way through at the ends. Kewpie mayoIf the bread is already cut, you will just have to eat it a little more carefully.
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1/4 sweet onion, finely chopped
  • ketchup
  • mayonnaise, Japanese-style Kewpie is best, but any mayonnaise in a squirt bottle can work
  • Sriracha sauce (optional, could substitute any thick hot sauce you like)

With the Virginia Smoke Links I used, I shallow-boiled them for about ten minutes. Rinsed and wiped out the pan and put in a couple of tablespoons of oil. I then fried the sausages on all sides–splits and cracks are very acceptable.

Sausages Grilled

When nicely browned, place in the slit of the bolillo or in the bun. Cover with chopped tomato and then raw onion. Drizzle Sriracha, ketchup and finally mayonnaise over top–see photo. It’s ready to serve!

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