Score big points with kielbasa sandwiches

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Throughout our country, autumn signals not only a change in weather but also the arrival of the football season, with its attendant social activities.

Fall football fervor is a familiar phenomenon for me. I grew up in Memphis, Tenn., and remember rooting for Ole Miss, my parents' favorite team. My mother and dad used to pack the car with blankets and food baskets on Saturday mornings, then rush across the state line to Oxford to attend the University of Mississippi games. For more than a decade, my husband, son and I lived in Columbus, Ohio, where we cheered the Ohio State Buckeyes (who, by the way, are the national champions). On football weekends in Ohio, thousands turn out for the contests and also attend pre- or post-game parties.

Whether for college, high school or junior high competitions, fans love to gather over food and drink before or after matches. The cool, crisp days of fall seem to pique appetites, and then, of course, there's the camaraderie of shared support for the team.

I recently discovered a recipe for grilled kielbasa brushed with spicy apricot mustard and served on toasted buns that would be perfect for football fetes. The simple mustard sauce flavored with apricot preserves and rosemary complements the robust taste of the kielbasa. Coleslaw and baked beans would make fine accompaniments.

Although I envision these hearty sausages as the centerpiece of a casual post-game meal, they could also be served earlier at a tailgate picnic. If you don't have a small portable grill for cooking the kielbasa on site, you can prepare it at home, using either an outdoor grill or a stove-top grill pan. After the sandwiches are assembled, they should be wrapped tightly in aluminum foil so that they stay warm, then packed and quickly transported.

Whether your team is victorious or suffers defeat, these delicious kielbasa sandwiches will definitely make you a winning host.

Kielbasa on Toasted Buns With Hot Apricot Mustard

Serves 8

Vegetable oil for oiling grill rack

One 1-pound package regular or precooked kielbasa sausage

8 good quality hot dog or long rolls, lightly toasted

Hot Apricot Mustard (recipe follows)

1 cup finely chopped yellow onion, optional

Oil a grill rack and arrange 4 to 5 inches from heat source. Prepare grill for a hot (high temperature) fire. While grill is heating, cut kielbasa into 4 equal links. Cut each link in half lengthwise so that you have 8 pieces. Grill kielbasa until hot and lightly browned, about 5 to 6 minutes per side. (The internal temperature should be 165 degrees.)

Place each kielbasa link in a toasted bun. Brush links generously with some Hot Apricot Mustard and garnish, if desired, with chopped onion. You may have some mustard left over; save it for another use.

Hot Apricot Mustard

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 cup apricot preserves

1/2 cup hot mustard (see Note)

4 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

Place apricot preserves in a small, heavy, nonreactive saucepan. With kitchen scissors or a sharp knife, chop up any large pieces of apricot. Set pan over medium heat and whisk constantly until liquefied, 1 minute or less. Whisk in mustard and continue to cook until mixture becomes almost translucent and starts to simmer, 1 minute or less. Remove from heat and stir in chopped rosemary. (This can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat, stirring, over low heat.)

Note: Hot Mister Mustard, available in many supermarkets, works particularly well in this recipe.

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