One Pot Meal: Sausage, New Potato & Vegetable Hash

This is my favorite thing to eat in August when corn and green beans are ready, there is lots of summer squash, and new potatoes are just coming in. It’s colorful, full of bright flavors, and totally satisfying for breakfast, lunch, or supper. It’s good cold as leftovers. It practically makes itself, and unlike many of my recipes, this one contains neither garlic nor Parmesan.

Everything but the salt, pepper, and olive oil can be found at Upper Valley farmers’ markets and farm stands or maybe your CSA or backyard. Buy locally! Eat seasonally!

Sausage, New Potato & Vegetable Hash
Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients
4 pork sausages – ideally Italian or garlic
1 red pepper, sliced into strips  (green or pablano are fine too)
1 large red onion, cut into chunks (other onions or equivalent amount of leek or scallions are fine too)
1 pound new potatoes, skins on, sliced ⅛ to ¼ inch thick.
1-2 yellow summer squash or zucchini cut into slices or small chunks (yellow crookneck is my favorite, but hard to find unless you grow them yourself.)
Kernels from an ear or two of corn (use up day- or days-old ears that are drying up in your fridge)
Handful of green beans cut or snapped in half (kale or broccoli are fine in a pinch)
2 T olive oil or fat (lard or chicken fat works well if you have some sitting around)
Salt & pepper
Handful of fresh herbs, chopped (I like cilantro or parsley)sausage potato and late vegetable hash credit Julia A

Directions
1. In a large skillet (10” or so) brown sausages on medium-high heat.

2. When sausages are half cooked, add onions and peppers and some salt.sausage potato and late vegetable hash credit Julia A (4)

3. Let peppers and onions get nice a nd browned before stirring.

4. When sausages are just cooked, remove them and the onions and peppers and set aside. Pour ¼ cup water into the pan to “deglaze” it – that is, get all the tasty browned flavors and bits off the pan. Add this pan juice to the sausages.

5. Wipe out pan to remove any sausage bits left. Heat a couple tablespoons of oil on medium high and add thesausage potato and late vegetable hash credit Julia A (8) thinly sliced potatoes in a single layer. Salt well. Let them brown them well before turning.

6. Add corn kernels, and summer squash. Let veggies brown before turning.

7. Break apart sausage into chunks and add sausage, onions, peppers, and pan juice back into hash along with chopped green beans.

8. Cook until green beans are tender and sausage is heated again. Test a potato too to make sure it’s cooked through.

9. Garnish with fresh chopped herbs. Serve with hot sauce.

Let’s talk about skillets
This hash is ideally cooked in a large skillet so that the vegetables sit in a single layer to brown equally.

Don’t have a nonstick pan? You don’t need one if you add ingredients to a sizzling hot cast iron or steel pan. Then lower heat to medium and don’t turn the ingredients until they’re browned, when they’ll start to release on their own.

Keep an eye out at yard sales or thrift stores for old cast iron or steel skillets as more healthful, more beautiful, and longer lasting alternatives to nonstick pans. (They’re not cheap if you get them new.)

– Bethany Fleishman

Photo credit: Julia A. Reed

Frozen Meat Primer

A common question I get from customers at farmers’ markets is if I have any meat that is not frozen. They are shopping for that evenings’ meal and don’t have time to thaw it. Occasionally, farmers will have fresh meat for sale, but the majority of locally raised meats are frozen, so knowing techniques for quickly and safely thawing frozen meat can be handy when shopping at your local farmers’ market or farm stand.

 

If time is not an issue, thawing meat in a refrigerator is the best option. Be sure to place the meat in a bowl or pan in case the package leaks during the defrosting process which will help keep the fridge clean and avoid limit the possibility of cross contamination. It is important that you make sure your refrigerator is less than 40 degrees F. The USDA’s Safe Food Handling Fact Sheet has valuable information about food safety including the fact that dangerous food borne bacteria can grow between the temperatures of 40-140 degrees F. It is important to limit the amount of time your thawing meat (any meat or prepared food, really) is in the ‘danger zone’. The refrigerator is the safest method, but in a pinch using a microwave or a cold water bath to speed up the process can work, if done correctly.

frozen chix

 

Cold Water Bath
Submerge your packaged meat in cold water. Unpackaged meat can attract bacteria from the air and absorb too much water, so put the meat in a ziplock bag if needed. Replace the water as it warms (about every 30 minutes) with fresh cold water. This technique will speed up the thawing process significantly.

water chix gallery

Microwave
Using the defrost mode on your microwave is another way to get the meat on the table quickly. When defrosting in a microwave it’s important to cook the meat immediately. The microwave isn’t ideal for defrosting red meats (it negatively affects the quality), but chicken and pork can be ready for cooking in no time using the microwave.

 

Grilling steak

Cooking Frozen Meats
Another option is to skip the thawing process altogether. America’s Test Kitchen  determined that the quality of beef steaks (especially grass-fed beef) improves when cooked while still frozen. For those who like a rare or medium-rare steak, cooking a frozen steak is the way to go.

This cooking technique is courtesy of Cook’s Illustrated chef Dan Souza

  • Heat skillet filled 1/8 inch deep with oil
  • Sear until browned (90 seconds per side)
  • Transfer to wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet
  • Cook in 275-degree oven until desired doneness (18 to 20 minutes for a 1-inch-thick steak)

Another handy tips when you are have a whole frozen chicken and need to have a meal on the table for dinner is to cook it frozen. It will take 50% more time to cook, but you can roast a whole chicken frozen and have a delicious dinner in a few hours. It is not recommended to cook frozen meats in a slow cooker because of the uncertainly about how long the meat will be in the danger temperature zone.

You can also boil frozen chicken. Boiling a whole frozen chicken has the advantage of giving you delicious chicken stock AND cooked chicken for several days worth of meals.

Thawing Frozen Meat FAQ

Can I refreeze meat that has been frozen and thawed?
Yes! If thawed in a refrigerator and packaged correctly you can refreeze meat that has been previously frozen. This is a great tip when you have a large package of meat and don’t want to cook it all at once. If frozen in an air-tight package there should be no loss of quality.

I just found a frozen chunk of meat at the bottom of my freezer – is it still good?
Hard telling, not knowing… You can find the FDA quidelines for storing foods here. Freezing (below zero) keeps food safe indefinitely, it is the quality that can be affected by length of time in the freezer and the type of packaging. Try to clean out your freezer at least once a year to be sure you use all your frozen goodies while they are still good.

Grill happy

How long is my refrigerator thawed meat good for?
Sorry, there is no one answer to this question. It depends on the type of meat (ground vs. whole, seafood vs. lamb, smoked vs. fresh), the type of packaging (vacuum packaging lasts longer), how long is was fresh before being frozen originally. The best advice is to use common sense, use your nose, and don’t take any chances.

These rules are true for all frozen meats!

Sausage, Barley and Spinach Soup

Friends often ask me how I find the time to cook so much. While I get paid to do so at times, I also make it a priority in my non-work life. That is, when I can actually distinguish the two. Some people spend their evenings at the gym or the pub. I usually spend them in my kitchen. But here’s the thing – I probably cook way less than they imagine.

When I cook, I almost always make meals that go further than just one occasion. I embrace leftovers and usually get at least a lunch or second dinner out of each meal. You might find me almost always enjoying a home cooked meal, but that doesn’t mean I cook up something new every single day.

Soup is the perfect example of winter cooking that really stretches itself during the week. Even if it’s just me I’m cooking dinner for, I’ll make a big pot of soup anyway. If for some reason I realize I won’t finish it all within a few days, I just freeze it. Soup freezes great and will defrost in no time. I’d rather make more than necessary to have ready to go than scramble on busier nights or opt to eat out more often than I can actually afford.

While beef and barley is the classic soup combo, I had some ground sausage hanging out in the freezer and figured it would work just as well. If you have beef, certainly use that here, instead. I started the soup, as most soups start, by browning onions, carrots, garlic and herbs in olive oil. These are the aromatics.

 

I added the sausage and broke it up with a wooden spoon, letting it cook until browned.

Next, I added the barley, letting it sauté for a minute or two. I think barley is excellent in soup. It doesn’t turn mushy or puff up like how most other grains or pasta. Barley maintains a nice chewy texture and adds some heartiness. Try subbing it for other grains in your favorite soups or those soups needing something to make them more filling.

 

Then in went the liquids – broth and crushed tomatoes. I used vegetable broth I already had opened, but beef broth would work too. I also found a couple of turnips hanging out in the fridge that I decided to add in as well. That’s what I love about soups. You really can add in a little of anything. It’s the perfect way to clean up those odds and ends you might have accumulated.

 

After letting the soup simmer a good 30 minutes, I mixed in a few cups of spinach. It’ll cook down a ton, as I always seem surprised to find, so don’t worry if it seems like too much at first. Then, the soup just needed a few minutes more for the spinach to wilt. Before serving, I added a splash of lemon juice for brightness and salt and pepper as needed. Adding acidity like citrus or vinegar at the end of a soup will help bring out the flavors and add a level of freshness.

Sausage, Barley and Spinach Soup

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 1/2 lb ground sausage
  • 14 1/2 ounces crushed tomatoes
  • 6 cups of your favorite broth
  • 2 turnips, diced
  • 1 cup pearled barley
  • 5 cups spinach
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium high heat. When hot, add the garlic, onion, carrots and thyme. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Cook, stirring occasionally until vegetables start to brown and become tender, about 7 minutes or so.
  3. Add in the ground sausage and break up with a wooden spoon. Let start to brown for about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the barley and let cook for a couple of minutes.
  5. Next, pour in the tomatoes, broth, and turnip. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer and cook about 30 minutes until the barley and turnips are tender.
  6. A couple minutes before serving, stir in the spinach. Let it wilt, then add the lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning.