As a former winemaker, I always think of grapes when August rolls around. In most regions, this is when harvest typically kicks off and it’s nothing but stained hands, sticky clothes and a belly full of grapes for the next few months. Since I’m no longer working in the wine industry, I picked this recipe as a way to remember those long days filled with grapes and the cozy smell of fermenting wine. The sausages are browned and topped with the sweet, tangy, spicy sauce of caramelized grapes and onions. It’s surprisingly quick and easy to make, and the technique of browning and simmering the sausages is the key to creating perfectly cooked, juicy sausages that don’t split open in the process.
Serve these sweet and spicy links over a bed of polenta, with crusty bread, or in a toasted bun for a mouthwatering twist on a classic brat. And definitely with a glass of Valpolicella Ripasso for a smooth, velvety hit of sour cherry and sweet spice. Enjoy!
italian sausage with grapes and balsamic vinegar
serves 4 to 6 | recipe from Cook's Illustrated, July & August 2013 edition
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 lbs sweet Italian sausage (I always use hot Italian sausage for the spicy kick)
1 lb (3 cups) seedless red grapes, halved lengthwise
1 onion, halved and sliced thin
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. When hot, add sausages to pan and cook for about 5 minutes, turning once, until browned on both sides. If very greasy, carefully tilt pan and blot away extra oil with paper towels.
Arrange grapes and onion around sausages, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, add water and cover pan. Cook sausages about 10 minutes, turning once halfway through, until grapes and onions are soft and the internal temperature of sausages is between 160°F and 165°F. Drain sausages on paper towel-lined plate and cover with aluminum foil.
Raise heat to medium-high and simmer grape-onion mixture until browned and caramelized, 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the mixture is well browned and the grapes are soft but still retain their shape, reduce heat to medium. Stir in wine and oregano, scraping the pan to deglaze, and cook until the wine is reduced by half, about 1 minute. Remove from heat, stir in vinegar, and adjust seasoning with salt, freshly ground pepper or a touch more vinegar, if needed.
Arrange sausages on serving platter, spoon grape-onion mixture over top and sprinkle with mint. Serve immediately.