february 15, 2013
Chris Mattera and Brad Hemp of Sausage Craft in Richmond, Virginia are masters of artisanal meats. Merriam Webster defines an artisan as “one that produces something in limited quantities, often using traditional methods”. Check, and check again. Sausage Craft is a small operation, not a big box warehouse, using responsibly sourced meats to turn out tasty and unique products, selling wholesale to local restaurants, shops and caterers.
Local and humanely raised meats are from animals not treated with steroids, antibiotics or hormones. There are no chemical preservatives and the sausages have the satisfying snap of natural casings. These fellas know their sausage, and they have the bona fides to possess bragging rights about their prowess. Chris is a Cordon Bleu culinary graduate who also apprenticed with a Tuscan butcher in San Miniato (one of their most popular sausages is the San Miniato, redolent of garlic and pepper). Brad, the marketing whiz, has worn many hats in the food arena, from serving as a buyer of fine wines and cheeses, to managing an artisan bakery.
I began using Sausage Craft meats about a year ago and to my utter delight the sausage kings now supply my neighborhood green grocer. Lucky me got to attend a sausage tasting at Little House Green Grocery recently where Brad Hemp unveiled a new sausage : the Cerdito, inspired by Cuban flavors of orange, garlic, cumin and cilantro. I snatched up the last of this delectable meat and cooked it up for a client of The Good Eats Company Personal Chef Service this week : seared, then roasted and cut into diagonal slices; the flavorful pan drippings were used to gently cook strands of sweet onion and roasted red pepper, then added to warm pasta with pinenuts and grated parmesan.
I chose Sausage Craft’s spicy chorizo sausage to star in a winter entree that elevates the lowly brown lentil to exalted status. Five simple main ingredients come together easily to make a filling one pot meal. Add a crusty loaf of bread, a leafy salad dressed with clementine vinaigrette and a glass of red wine and you will be transported to a Spanish village on the Mediterranean. Finish the meal with a couple of moist dried figs and a petite glass of Amontillado sherry. Pleasant dreams!
Chorizo Sausage with Lentils and Tomato
one pound of chorizo sausage links
1 1/2 cups brown lentils, rinsed and picked over for debris
one 14.5 ounce can petite diced tomato
one medium large sweet onion, sliced thinly
6 large garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1/2 T extra virgin olive oil
pinch of fine sea salt
- Add oil to heavy medium saute pan and bring to medium high heat.
- Just as oil begins to smoke, add sausage links and brown, about 2 minutes per side.
- Remove sausages and set aside; reduce heat to medium and add onion with pinch of salt.
- Stir onion frequently until it starts to become soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add sliced garlic and stir frequently, until both onion and garlic just begin to brown, about 5 more minutes.
- Add whole sausages, with any accumulated juices, the lentils and tomato, with about 2 1/4 cups water, stirring well to combine.
- Bring mixture to boil and simmer partly covered, stirring occasionally, until lentils are just beginning to soften ( I like mine a little firm), about 40 minutes.
- Add more water during cooking if you like more broth; adjust seasoning after cooking.