Sunday, 7 October 2007

Italian Street Food: Sausage & Pepper Grinders

I love Italian street festivals, and fortunately Connecticut and New York have their share. They generally, but not always, are affiliated with a Catholic church and are religious celebrations of various Saints' birthdays. My two favorites are the St. Gennaro Festival held in the Little Italy section of New York City, and the St. Andrew Festival (known simply as "the festa" to those in the know)held on Wooster Square in New Haven, CT. Both of these festivals have been running annually for approximately 100 years.

These festivals, known as sagras or festas, may be religious at heart, but they're really all about the food. And you certainly don't need to be Catholic to attend them.

Italian streetfood in all of its glory is traditionally served at these festas: Calzones, Italian ice (lemon of course), pizza slices, fried dough, cannolis, meatball sandwiches oozing hot mozzerella cheese and, something no decent festa would be without, hot sausage & pepper grinders.

I don't make these at home very often, but they're a good "guy" food for the football season and hold up well keeping warm in the crockpot. You can also serve the sausage & peppers as a main or side dish, but I prefer them as grinders.

For those of you who are trying to figure out what a grinder is, we also call them sub sandwiches. You may know them as "heros" or "hoagies" or "wedges", but whatever. They're all the same thing!

Italian Sausage & Pepper Grinder

2 tablespoons olive oil
6 hot Italian sausages
6 sweet Italian sausages
1 medium onion, sliced thin
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 Italian (or sweet) peppers, seeded and cut into strips
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 cup white wine
salt & pepper to taste
1 loaf fresh Italian bread, cut into 4 pieces OR 4 grinder rolls

In a large skillet, heat oil and fry sausages on all sides until browned. Drain off excess fat and add the onions, garlic, peppers, tomato paste, wine, salt and pepper.

Cover and cook on low heat for 20 minutes or until peppers and onion are tender.

Slice Italian bread segments lengthwise almost but not all the way through. Load with sausage & peppers. Serve with plenty of napkins.

NOTE: Italian sausage sold in packages is generally 1 lb of sausage in six 3-4" links. I like to slice them in half lengthwise after browning to make them easier to eat. If you are buying fresh Italian sausage it will probably come in one large link. Just simply cut into pieces 3-4" long.

TIP: Most authentic store-made Italian sausage has some fennel in it. If you are buying a name-brand it probably does not include the fennel. You can throw some fennel seeds into the dish to give it a more authentic taste.

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