When I did my Sausage Cart Spaghetti post last week I was dismayed by how many people had never had an Italian sausage from a vendor's cart. I mean sure, they're greasy, sketchy and who knows when that license they have taped up (but covered in grime) was last renewed, but c'mon! Slightly charred sausage, soft and gently caramelized peppers and onions, it's deliciousness on the go, how can you even resist?
Or maybe it's that they don't have them around you, is that why you haven't had one? I'm told they are mostly a Northeast city thing, so if you don't live up here they might not be around. You might not know the dubious joy of waiting in "line", if the unruly mob around any given vendor can be called that, with impatient suits and bike messengers trying to grab a quick lunch (or breakfast), inhaling second hand smoke, first hand insults and thinking it will all be worth it once you get your sausage and all these fricking people just fricking stop fricking bumping into you. Or maybe that's just me... Anyway, here, let me show you how to recreate it at home.
All you need is around five ingredients; Italian sausage, peppers, onions, mustard (if you like) and rolls, and you're all set. First I should tell you though, different vendors make sausages different ways, there isn't one magic vendor method that makes some kind of delicious thing. But fortunately all the methods that I've come across are wicked easy, have a minimum of ingredients and can be done quickly. Almost as though the people who use them are in a rush and feeding people for money. Heh. Anyway, this is how I do it.
First, you've got to brown up your sausages. Or in this case, sausage. You should set the heat to medium-high, I like to use a steel skillet, although cast iron is good too. Don't be shy when you're cooking them, a good bit of browning means a good bit of flavor. Plus you want some fond because it will add more flavor to the veggies. Don't stress cooking it all the way through, it's going to get steamed some in just a minute, color is the main goal here.
Next add some sliced peppers and onions, sliced kind of medium thickness. I like red for both, but you can use any kind you like. Toss them around to coat them with some of the fat then pile them up on any fond you have. Now cover the skillet and let it steam for about five minutes or so, longer if you want the veggies softer or if the sausage isn't cooked through. It's not rocket science, kids.The veggies will let out some liquid which will deglaze the pan a bit, so when everything is cooked just toss them around some more to coat them with all that goodness. And that's it, other than toasting the roll and slapping on a little mustard. This is possibly the simplest way to make Italian sausage, short of just grilling them, and it's definitely my favorite. One great thing about this method is you can make just one or as many as your skillet will hold, it doesn't really change the length of time you need that much.
But that's it, that's how to make an Italian sausage like a vendor. For a more authentic experience I suggest making them for a crowd, that way everyone can stand around the stove, pushing and talking on cell phones, complaining that they have to get back to work and what's taking you so long anyway? How hard is it to fry a sausage?! This package won't deliver itself, douche bag! I've got a meeting in ten minutes!