Sausages of various types have been tempting our palates for centuries. They were popular at least several hundred years before the birth of Christ, and a cookbook written around A.D. 200 contains a number of sausage recipes.
The popularity of sausage has continued into the modern era, and the variety of sausage available today is staggering. To walk into any good deli and inspect their wares is to be introduced to such ethnic fare as Polish kielbasa and Swedish potato sausage, a favorite in my family, especially around the holidays.
Bearing such exotic names as cacciatore, mortadella and galantina, the sausages of Italy are an art form in themselves.
Cacciatore sausage gets its name from the Italian word for hunter. Salami, a favorite American import, combines beef and pork; it is usually flavored with pepper, garlic and wine. Even nuts are used in Italian sausages, as in the pistachio-studded mortadella.
Germany is another country famous for its sausages. An Oktoberfest would not be complete without steaming plates of bratwurst to tempt the crowds. And Americans can thank the Germans for the ever-popular frankfurter. This, the world's most popular sausage, was named after the city of Frankfurt (although most Americans refer to the sausages as "hot dogs").
Sausage is as versatile as it is delicious: You might start your morning with a breakfast crowned with sausage links, kick off an elegant party with a cocktail frank appetizer, or sit down to a satisfying meal of beer-cooked bratwurst.
Fresh, uncooked sausage requires slower and more even cooking of a medium (50 percent power) setting. Precooked sausage, on the other hand, is ready in a snap when microwaved at full power.
If your microwave comes complete with a browning grill, heat the grill at high (100 percent power), following manufacturer's instructions. Arrange sausages on the heated grill and microwave at full power, turning the sausages over halfway through cooking time. Make sure to microwave fresh pork sausage until it is no longer pink inside to ensure that it is fully cooked.
Nicely browned sausage is a treat to the eye as well as the palate. Yet due to the quick-cooking capability of your microwave, you may end up with sausage that is fully cooked but still on the pale side. If you don't own a microwave browning dish, try brushing sausages with a mixture of brown bouquet sauce mixed with an equal part of water before microwaving.
Recipes in this story were tested in 625- to 700-watt microwave ovens.
Yields 4 servings.
1 pound mild Italian sausage
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
3 cups water
1 cup cubed cooked ham
3/4 cup uncooked white rice
1/2 teaspoon each chili powder and dried thyme leaves, crumbled
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 or 2 bay leaves
Preparation time: 5 to 10 minutes. Cooking time: 33 to 37 minutes (plus 5 minutes standing time). Oven setting: high (100 percent power); medium (50 percent power).
After removing skins from sausages, break them up into 10-inch microwave-safe casserole. Add onions, bell pepper, celery and garlic.
Microwave at high setting 5 to 7 minutes, or until sausage is no longer pink, stirring halfway through cooking time. Drain off fat.
Mix in tomato sauce, water, ham, rice, chili powder, thyme, cayenne and pepper; add bay leaf. Cover tightly with plastic wrap.
Microwave at medium setting 20 minutes; stir. Recover and microwave at medium setting 8 to 10 minutes longer, or until the rice is tender. Remove bay leaf before serving. Let stand, covered, 5 minutes before serving.
Sausage and beer
Yields 3 servings.
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1/2 cup chopped onion
6 uncooked bratwurst (about 1 pound)
1 (12-ounce) can of beer, at room temperature
Preparation time: 5 minutes. Cooking time: 5 to 6 minutes (plus 3 minutes standing time). Oven setting: high (100 percent power); medium (50 percent power).
Combine butter or margarine and onion in 8-inch square microwave-safe baking dish. Microwave at high setting 1 minute, or until onion is just tender.
Arrange sausages over onions in baking dish. Pour beer over all and cover tightly with plastic wrap.
Microwave at medium setting 4 to 5 minutes, or until heated through. Let stand, covered, 3 minutes before serving. Serve with potatoes or noodles.
Sweet and sour franks
Yields 4 appetizers.
8 cocktail franks
8 pimento-stuffed olives
8 pineapple chunks, drained
3 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons pineapple juice
2 teaspoons brown sugar
Preparation time: 5 minutes. Cooking time: 2 to 3 minutes. Oven setting: high (100 percent power).
Cut each frank in half and thread pieces onto 4 wooden skewers, alternating with olives and pineapple chunks. Arrange appetizers shallow 8-by-12-inch microwave-safe baking dish.
Mix together oil, soy sauce, pineapple juice and brown sugar and brush this mixture over appetizers.
Microwave 1 minute. Turn appetizers over and baste with remaining sauce.
Microwave 1 to 2 minutes longer, or until heated through. Serve hot.