I’d like a pound of your hard salami. The harried soccer mom stood, hands crossed, ponytail askew, eyes focused on nothing in particular. I stood transfixed, mop in hand, waiting for the deli manager to deliver the punch line. It wasn’t coming, though. But even as an unworldly, 16-year-old grocery sacker, I definitely caught the flash of a smirk as he sliced off a chunk of long, red torpedo.
Let’s face it. Sausage is funny. It’s suggestive. It’s hilarious. It makes people uncomfortable. And for thousands of years, this culinary metaphor has served as a cheap, dirty staple across countless cultures. Sausage isn’t for the squeamish; some of its first iterations included the use-it-up-and- wear-it-out recipe of intestines stuffed into stomach casings. And although the word sausage comes from the middle- English “sausige,” the history of sausage is much longer than that, going deep into the annals of human history more than 2,000 years.
As humans moved on from beating each other with rocks and became less predictable and more complicated in their war making, so did sausage. From Africa’s sun- dried, paprika-flavored merguez, to Cajun Andouille, to the oily, crumbly version of chorizo popular in places like Mexico and Austin, sausages are now as diverse as the people who make them. And as a food, it’s totally comfortable being both flashy and trashy.
So, you’ve decided to get all subliminal and suggestive and prepare sausage for your next romantic date night. Or, you’re having a bizarre masquerade party. Or you’re stealing my awesome idea and throwing yourself a cuarentañera for your fortieth birthday. Or maybe, just maybe, you’ve decided to go all hipster ironic and have a run-of-the-mill cookout. (By the way, how did the hipster burn his mouth on a sausage? He ate it before it was cool.) Whatever. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is not abusing your sausage. You’ll want to keep a few things in mind while you prepare for your very own weinerpalooza.
THE 10 COMMANDMENTS OF SAUSAGE
Everybody knows, even in today’s enlightened society, that the man who smokes the mammoth sausages gets all the attention. Kiss the cook.
Chop it up, make a little paella, throw it in with a bowl of extra-sharp cheddar and macaroni, whatever. Relax and enjoy. It’s just sausage.
In a hurry, Mary? Well, settle down. In a pan, cover those links with water, and simmer with the lid on for about ten minutes. Place them on a clean towel to dry, then finish in the oven or in a frying pan. Boom, you’re done. Now, wasn’t that easy?
A sausage is not a sausage is not a sausage. Just because you found the perfect way for preparing an ooey-gooey, cheesy chicken sausage, that doesn’t mean it’s going to translate to that drier, herby Italian sausage you can’t wait to try. Know your meat, mister.
It’s OK, it doesn’t hurt.
Please remember, if you’re cooking the sausages “skin on,” holes in the casing can lead to dry sausages. And that is sad. Be gentle.
At least one highly respected local chef swears by soy chorizo crumbled into his migas. Take off your skeptical pants and don’t knock it until it has been sufficiently tried.
Seriously, it’s just weird and mushy and unnecessary. Just eat fish. Sometimes it pays to know when a chasm is too wide to jump.
900 E. 11th St., 653-1187
Before you go to Franklin Barbecue, all you can think is, “Really? A two-hour wait for barbecue? In Austin, Texas?” Then, you finally bite into the oh-so-tasty, drippy, juicy sausage and think, “I’d happily wait three.” In truth, the wait isn’t always that long (especially if you get there an hour before they open), but the good-natured crowd and the final payoff make it well worth the wait.
709 E. 6th St., 614-4972
Lamb sausage and vegetarian sausage and elk sausage and brats and chicken sausage and garlic sausage and Italian sausage and I don’t know what the hell else. Slapped on a slab of chewy pretzel bread, the imaginative sausage sandwiches at Easy Tiger are just the perfect sort of easygoing hand food to accompany a little relaxation time in the biergarten with some good friends, a cold beer or three, and a highly competitive game of Ping-Pong. Score.
407 Colorado St., 494-6916
OK, I’ll say something, then I want you to tell me the first thing that comes to mind. Ready? Beer-soaked brats. If your answer is last call at Rain, think again. Swimming in kraut and spicy mustard, these babies are hot, ready, and fresh out of the beer bath. Frank has more complicated and unexpected weenies on the menu for sure, but this simple sausage is familiar and flavorful.
360 Nueces St., 320-0297
Even in the midst of Sunday morning brunch, Mulberry has an intimate, evening atmosphere that, contextually, preps your mouth for a little luxury. Tuck into the thick and comfy blueberry pancakes and the kind-of-spicy, very complex flavors of Mulberry’s house-made sausage patties. Roll around in that buttery, syrupy mess of a plate that lies wantonly before you. You won’t care if it’s night or day. You’ll just want more.
Easy Tiger Photography by John Conroy. All other photography by David Smith of Envision Creative Group.