Thursday, March 25, 2010

Duck Sausage with Couscous and Asparagus

Duck, pearl couscous, and asparagus: how I adore these three foods.  Upon recommendation, I got some amazing duck sausage from a local specialty food shop, Capone Foods.  The meat is blended with shallots, cherries, pancetta, and spices.   To treat it with a simple but flavorful preparation, I decided to serve it with some fresh, sauteed asparagus, and some fruity pearl couscous.

"Pearl couscous?" you say.  "Whatever could that be?"  Well, it's exactly the same as the couscous you know, only bigger.  Sometimes called Israeli couscous, it's larger size gives it a more substantial, chewy feel in the mouth and it lends itself to carrying sauces a bit better.

I loved this meal as a transition from winter to spring foods: it's still warm and aromatic, but has some brighter, fresher flavors as well.  Cook it for yourself or for a dinner party; the proportions are easily adjusted.  Other meats can be substituted for the duck sausage, too!
  • First, cook four duck sausages in a pan on medium heat, rolling them often to brown them evening.
  • When they are plump and cooked through, set them aside to cool a bit.
  • In the same pan, add 1 minced shallot, 1 tbsp butter, and 3/4 couscous.  Toasting the couscous adds a lovely subtle flavor, but be sure to stir it often enough to keep it from burning.
  • (optional) Add 1/4 c. red wine to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom with your spatula.
  • Add about 1 c. water (generally, the couscous to water ration is 1 to just over 1).
  • Add 10 dried apricot halves that have been minced, salt, pepper, and any herbs that interest you (herbs de provence are good here).
  • Bring the water to a boil, reduce heat, cover the pan, and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes.
  • While the couscous cooks, start your asparagus cooking in a pan with some olive oil and coarse salt.  I prefer to cook it in an open pan to keep it from steaming (I like it a little crisp).  Be sure to use a large enough pan and toss them so they cook evenly.  You could also roast them in the oven.
  • Slice up your now cooler sausages.
  • When the couscous is done (all of the liquid should be absorbed) remove it from the pan.
  • Get the pan nice and hot again.  Add a little bit of butter, then add the the sausage slices.  You don't want to cook them much longer, instead just browning them a bit more on each sliced side.
  • As soon as they get a hint of sear, serve the sausage over the couscous.  Now your asparagus should be done, so plate that as well!
Enjoy this dish with a nice glass of red wine, followed by some fresh fruit with a piece of great chocolate for dessert.

Never one to let leftovers go to waste, the next day for dinner I made a duck sausage 'hot dog'.  I sliced open a crusty baguette and smeared it with a bit of fig jam on one side and whole grain mustard on the other.  After reheating the sausage in pan, I quickly sauteed some red onions to pour over the top.  A very different style of meal, but tasty nonetheless!


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