apple and sausage stew
I went back and forth on garnishing this with parsley for the sake of a prettier photo, but look, it doesn’t need parsley and we’re here to cook, not play dressup (dressup is after dinner). Notwithstanding its Instagram-unfriendly brown and beige, this sausage stew—with big chunks of apple and onion, and a silky broth thick with all the sweetness and meatiness of its core ingredients—is an indispensible staple in my winter rotation. It demands little attention, comes together in one pot, and doesn’t even need bread to feel like a complete meal (but if you had some, that wouldn’t hurt anybody).
Bear with me for a second if you didn’t grow up on a media diet of Lord of the Rings and this very specific time travel-themed children’s book, but this sausage stew has what I like to call a medieval tavern quality. That is, it’s something you might be served as a weary traveller on your way to fight a dragon by a gruffly friendly tavern wench wielding a wooden ladle (just me? okay). It’s warming, it sticks to your ribs (an idiom that, fun fact, was first recorded in 1603—not quite medieval but we’ll run with it), and it only benefits from rough knife work and a laissez-faire perspective.
For the sausages, you’ll want something thick and relatively plain. Ideally, you’ll go to a good butcher, but grocery stores have very decent butcher-style sausages these days. If you can find something with fennel in it, all the better (sweet Italian sausages are usually a good choice for this reason)—we’ll add fennel seeds for a light herbal backnote anyway, and there’s a lot to be said for intentional synchronicity. As for apples, I have a bit of a conflict here. I happened to photograph this recipe when I used Granny Smith apples—and they work just fine—but dessert apples like Fuji or Honeycrisp work even better.
Choose a high-sided cooking vessel with a decent amount of surface area for browning your sausage chunks. I occasionally use a Dutch oven, which is kind of perfect if we’re going for village tavern (I realize they didn’t have Lagostina or Le Creuset in the medieval era but we’re fantasizing here and you can’t tell me the aesthetic doesn’t fit). More often than not, I use the deep frying pan pictured here, because it’s reliable and much easier to lift. Based on that last comment alone, it’s fair to say I wouldn’t last a day in the 1200s—let alone fighting Smaug—but take my word for it, this is just the thing to sustain you through these final snowy weeks.
[I adapted this recipe from Nigel Slater’s Tender volume ii , which is essentially a gorgeous love letter to fruit (its companion book, Tender volume i, does the same for vegetables). These books are big, weighty things, but I happily lug them to bed for reading at least once a week— as much for their lyricism as their recipes.]
apple and sausage stew
onions 2 large
garlic 3 cloves
apples** 2 large
bay leaf 1
fennel seeds 2 small pinches
dijon mustard 2 tablespoons, divided
white beans 1 large can, or about 2 cups (cooked)
all-purpose flour 2 tablespoons
sherry or sherry vinegar 1/2 a cup or 1 tablespoon, respectively (optional)
chicken stock (boxed is fine, homemade is better) 1 litre
olive oil 2 tablespoons
kosher salt and black pepper
*You want thick, hefty butcher-style sausages. Ask for something relatively mild, and ideally spiced with fennel. Sweet Italian-style sausages are perfect here.
**I’ve used Fuji, Honeycrisp, and Granny Smith with great success. You want an apple that will hold up to cooking without disintegrating.
Cut the onions in half through the stem, peel, and cut from pole to pole into thick wedges. Finely slice the garlic.
Cut the sausages into big chunks, about two or three inches long.
sweat the vegetables
Heat a large, deep-sided over medium. When it’s hot, add the olive oil, quickly followed by the onions. Add a small pinch of salt and cook till they’re tender and barely golden, about ten minutes.
Add the sliced garlic, fennel seeds, and bay leaf. Cook for a few more minutes, and transfer everything to a bowl (don’t worry, no need to clean the pan at this point).
brown the sausage and assemble the stew
Turn the heat up to medium-high, and add the sausage chunks to the same pan you used for the onions. Brown the chunks on each side. While that’s happening, peel and seed the apples, and cut them into eighths (they would have browned if you did this earlier).
Turn the heat back down to medium, and add the apples to the browned sausages along with the onion mixture and flour. Cook for two minutes, stirring.
Add the stock, half the mustard, and sherry or sherry vinegar (if using). If your stock is salty, you may be able to get away with not adding additional salt—if not, add a hefty pinch now. Regardless, add 10 good grinds of black pepper. Bring to a boil, and cook uncovered at a spirited simmer for 25 minutes.
Drain the white beans add them to the pan. Simmer for another 25 minutes.
When it’s done, turn off the heat and another tablespoon of dijon. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.
Pile into a deep bowl. I wish you Godspeed fighting your dragon, real or euphemistic.