Nothing warms up a cold winter evening like a nice hot sausage
Every time we'd drive up to my grandparents' farm, my folks would make a point of stopping at Moore's general store. If you're picturing something out of a Country Time lemonade commercial, you've got just the right idea. It was a dusty old clapboard building, with squeaky floor boards, a slamming screen door and one of those big old Coca-Cola coolers with tall bottles and real ice inside. In the back, of the store, Mr. Moore could be found behind a big, white enameled meat case, with a motor that purred as softly as a diesel tractor. Mr. Moore made sausage, sweet (meaning mild) and hot Italian. We chose sweet, and bought enough for dinner at the farm, plus a few extra links to take back to the city with us. It was good stuff.
There aren't any Country Time-looking stores in Albuquerque, but there are a handful of places where guys who look a lot like Mr. Moore still grind sausage by hand.
At Tully's Italian Meats and Deli (1425 San Mateo NE, 255-5370), they make hot and sweet Italian sausages, ground from 100 percent pork with fresh herbs and spices. They also sell a turkey version of both, and some made with pork and turkey. The Italian sausages are perfect for serving over pasta with red sauce, slicing and topping a pizza crust, or simply simmering and eating on a bun.
Tully's also makes some fancy-pants sausages, like one with cheese, wine and parsley, that are best when you make them the focal point of a meal. For breakfast, try their chicken and apple blend. Most of Tully's links go for $4.98 per pound; some of the fancier ones cost as much as $8.98.
Mike Keller, of Keller's Farm Stores (Coors and Montaño 898-6121, or Eubank and Candelaria, 294-1427), says his family has been selling sausages since they started out, back in Colorado a half-century ago. Today, Keller's grinds all of their sausage in-house, from animals raised on their Colorado ranch or bought whole and butchered on-site. They sell four different Italian blends, turkey green chile, chorizo, buffalo bratwurst and a long list of other uncooked links.
The smoked kielbasa and andouille are Mike Keller's favorites for quick eating. Because they're smoked, they don't have to be simmered first. "I just grill 'em and throw 'em on a piece of bread with mustard," he says. They also sell a line of turkey franks, one with cheese, one with green chile, another with green chile and cheese, that only need to be heated through. Keller's sausages range from $4.29 to $4.69 per pound.
Smoked sausages are the specialty at Alpine Sausage Kitchen (Indian School at Girard, 266-2853), where they sell nearly 20 varieties. Here's where you'll find the best selection of German-style sausages. Owner Bill Schmaeh's special white bratwurst is made from veal and pork. Because he chooses lean cuts of beef and pork, Schmaeh says his Vienna sausages (you know, hot dogs) are a lot leaner then what you'll find at the grocery store. All of the smoked sausages sell for $4.69 per pound; the Viennas run $4.99.
Schmaeh believes sausages should be served simply, accompanied by potato salad, sauerkraut and a good mustard. Alpine stocks plenty of hard-to-find German and European condiments, so your sausages need not feel naked.
Spicy Macaroni and Cheese
If you've got leftover spicy sausage, try tossing it into this grownup version of mac and cheese, from Ann Willan's book The Good Cook (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, hardcover, $40).
3/4 pound macaroni
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
3/4 pound spicy sausage meat
For the cheese sauce:
3 cups milk
6 tablespoons butter, plus more for the baking dish
6 tablespoons flour
3/4 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Salt and pepper, to taste
Grated nutmeg, to taste
Preheat the oven to 375°.
1) Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente, tender but still chewy. Drain in a colander and tip into a bowl.
2) Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet and fry onions until they start to soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Crumble in sausage meat. Fry, stirring constantly to break it up, until crumbly and brown, 5 to 8 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove sausage to paper towels and set aside.
3) Make the cheese sauce. Bring milk to a boil and set it aside. In a saucepan, melt the butter, whisk in flour, and cook until it foams, about 1 minute. Whisk in hot milk and bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly until it thickens—it will be quite thick. Simmer for 2 minutes, take from the heat, and whisk in 3/4 of the cheese, stirring just until the cheese melts, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
4) Stir sauce and sausage into the pasta and taste again for seasoning. Butter the baking dish. Spread macaroni in the dish and sprinkle with reserved cheddar cheese.
5) To finish, bake the macaroni and cheese for 25 to 35 minutes, until hot and bubbly. (You may need to turn on the broiler for the last 5 minutes to brown the crust.) Let the dish rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.