There’s a local sausage maker that Eric and I are kind of obsessed with. Well, we are obsessed with their sausages. Is that weird to say? (Side note: if you’re a Richmond local and you haven’t tried anything from Sausage Craft/Salt Pork, do it. You won’t regret it.) We’ve been picking up a pack of sausage whenever we hit the farmers market, which means we’ve been eating sausage at least once a week.
In the “it’s summer, let’s grill everything!” mood I’ve been in lately, I of course wanted nothing else but to grill the sausage. You know what, though? Grilling sausage is not all it’s cracked up to be. Without being poached first, there’s almost no way to get a good sear on the meat without overcooking the inside. I know because we’ve tried. It seemed pointless to cook the sausages inside first and then build a fire only to sear them for a couple minutes. I mean, water certainly doesn’t add any flavor, so I just figured we could skip that step and end up with smoky, flavorful sausages that were only cooked on the grill. Man, I was so wrong. Without being poached first, sausages have a tendency to dry up when grilled. And really, no one wants a dried up sausage, do they?
After eating tasty-but-not-cooked-as-well-as-we-would’ve-liked sausages, Eric and I apparently had the same idea, because we both stumbled across the same Serious Eats article about grilling sausages. We decided to try again, this time with a new method: grill poaching. This yielded the most fantastically juicy and flavorful sausages, and we had a built in side dish. Double win. The sausage cooks in liquid on the grill, soaking up not only the flavor of the cooking liquid but also the smokiness of the grill. When cooked through, all they need is a quick trip to the grill grate to get wonderfully seared.
This method is one that can be used countless ways. We used red wine and a variety of tomatoes this time, and we’ve already discussed making a beer version next. I love grilled tomatoes, so using them was a no-brainer. Because I wanted tomato juices for poaching, I used some larger tomatoes, which I quartered, in addition to grape tomatoes. Garlic, red wine and fresh thyme all added flavor to the tomatoes. We used Cerdito sausages from Sausage Craft, but you can really use just about anything here. We all loved this meal, with Eric and I commenting repeatedly how good it was and how we couldn’t wait to make it again. You know something is really good when you get up from the table before dinner is over so that you can throw bread on the still hot grill and then use it to soak up the juices on your plate. The sausages were perfectly cooked, with that smoky flavor one expects from a charcoal grill. Bonus: the leftover tomatoes, blended with my immersion blender, made an awesome pasta sauce for the next night’s dinner.
2 pints cherry tomatoes
2 medium tomatoes, quartered
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup red wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Pinch of red pepper flakes, optional
1 pound sausages
Prepare your grill for indirect heat. (For a charcoal grill, coals on one side and for a gas grill, half the burners set to high.)
Combine the tomatoes, thyme, garlic, olive oil, red wine and salt and pepper in a large foil baking pan. Add red pepper flakes if you want your sauce to have a bit more kick. Nestle the sausages into the tomato mixture.
Place the pan on the hot side of the grill and cook until the liquid starts to simmer. Move the pan to the cooler side of the grill. Cover, with the grill vents over the pan, and cook for about 20 minutes, turning the sausages halfway through, until they register 140º to 145ºF with an instant read thermometer.
When the sausages have cooked through, use tongs to remove them from the tomatoes and place them on the hot side of the grill. Cook for about 3 minutes, turning occasionally, just until the outside is seared and crisp.
Return the sausages to the tomatoes. Serve immediately.