Sausages and whatever you got

I happened to stumble across–okay, I was ego-surfing at Technorati–a post by Orangette (whose blog I have now dutifully aggregated) about sausages and grapes. Judging by the photo, she makes it better than I do.

Sausages and grapes is an Italian dish, often called Tuscan but probably made anywhere they have sausages and wine grapes–that is, all of Italy. I first had it at Al Forno restaurant in Providence RI, and since then I’ve written an article about it and made it at home dozens of times from the recipe in Cucina Simpatica, the cookbook version of Al Forno.

Somehow I never stopped to wonder whether sausages cooked up with other fruits would be just as good. Then Molly Stevens’s All About Braising introduced me to sausages with plums. Her method is a little different. For sausages and grapes, you basically toss everything in the oven, and half an hour later it’s magically transformed into dinner. Sausages and plums is a little more work. You brown the sausages in a pan, saute minced shallot and garlic, add sliced plums, deglaze with red wine, and braise on the stovetop.

This is a perfect use for imperfect plums. A good plum is dangerously juicy. If it were a Holst composition, it would be Plum: The Destroyer of Shirt. This time of year, though, you can get plenty of firm, sour, and thick-skinned plums. Just as green mangoes and papayas make brilliant vegetables, so does an unripe plum in this recipe. When we had sausages and plums for dinner last night, Iris ate all her plums, then announced, “Iris eat some Mama’s plums and some Dada’s plums.” And she did.

A few weeks ago I was at Whole Foods, and I couldn’t find the plums. I asked a produce guy, and he said, “Plums are over.” He said it in the exact tone a teenager would use to say, “Mom, Christina Aguilera is so OVER.” Apparently, by asking for plums out of season, I was not only compromising the Whole Foods mission, but quite possibly hastening the extinction of mankind. Mamster: The Despoiler of Stone Fruit.

So I bought some fresh black mission figs and made sausages and figs, which were excellent.

Whole Foods has an amazing sausage case, with over two dozen varieties made fresh daily. Overall, I gravitate toward their chicken sausages; their pork sausages are too lean and tend to cook up dry if you don’t baby them. Obviously, the chicken sausages are even leaner, but somehow they don’t have the same problem. For pork sausages I like Isernio’s hot Italian, which are sold throughout the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and Hawaii. Unlike most store brands and national brands like Johnsonville, Isernio’s sausages are free of weird stuff like preservatives and corn syrup, and they even sell them at Trader Joe’s.

Now the question is: Sausages and what?