# 13 - Salt-Peter Shawarma Sausage

The other day we were chatting with Silvio (yes, the S.P. Sausage Laboratory is an equal opportunity workplace, and we take everyone's opinion into account), and we discovered that both Silvio and S.P. have a profound love for shawarmas, and all manner of kabobs (sis, kofta, doner, etc). 
What, you don't chat with you sausage stuffer?
In case you are wondering, shawarmas are a favorite street food from the Middle East; shawarma carts abound on street corners from Cairo to Damascus, and the dish happily coexists with kabobs at myriad doner kabob shops around the world.  Usually made from a blend of meats, and cooked for days on a vertical spit, shawarma is carved thin, and served hot on pita with tomato, cucumbers, and creamy hummus.  Every grease-dribbling bite is enough to make even the most isolated foreigner feel at home on Syrian street corners, if only until it's swallowed.  Shawarma is ubiquitous; shawamra is delicious.  It has been well over a decade since S.P. last took a pilgrimage to Syria (in search of biblical sausage recipes, of course).  Many cherished sensations persist in the memory: the shine of Damascene steel blades sliding free of ornate scabbards; the musky glow of wealthy Persian rug shops, where customers are force-fed sweet tea and biscuits; the mouth-watering counterpoint of cold, salty goat cheese and sweet marmalade on hot pita in a convent breakfast; but the finger-licking savor of the shawarma is the most cherished of all.

The shawarma obviously left an impression on S.P. as a young culinary pilgrim, and now he loves it, alongside all of its kabob brethren (sis, kofta, doner, etc).   Silvio also expressed his undying love for the dish.  Of course, Silvio used words that we are not willing to print in this space, but it comes as no surprise that Shawarma is one of his favorites... The old man always had a thing for wet situations with seductive immigrants from the south.

And so, after using bleach to scrub away Silvio's dirtiness, the S.P. Sausage Laboratory resolved to make a new sausage:

Salt-Peter Shawarma Sausage

  • Pork Shoulder
  • Beef Chuck
  • Ricotta
  • Shallots
  • Garlic 
[A pun about adding shallots, in the future indicative]
  • Ginger
  • Cumin
  • Paprika
  • Fenugreek
  • Smoked Garlic
  • Coriander
  • Garam Masala
  • African Bird Pepper
  • C. Salt

Now, some might argue that attempting to make a shawarma kabob with pork, rather than lamb, is like trying to pour vegetable oil into the gas tank of a muscle car. Of course, such miscreants would be forgetting that biodiesel conversions are the way of the future; Moreover, they would be forgetting that the Prince of Proteins, and can wear any suit, and does not require approval from the peanut gallery.  Like almost no other meat, pork adopts whatever flavor you give it.  It's uncanny: braise it in white wine and olive oil, and it begins bemoaning the state of Europe's economy; marinate it in soy sauce, rice vinegar and ginger, and it begins censoring Google; rub it with Indian spices, and suddenly it converts your stove into a Tandoor and develops a strong affinity for musical movies.  In attempting to deliver shawarma in a sausage, we could hardly chose a better substrate than pork.

Having agreed on pork (with some beef, for good hearty measure), it came time to choose the spices.  When attempting to emulate flavors from what Winston Churchill would've called the "Near East," S.P. has found two spices to be critical:

A tumbled Near-East landscape of spices.

Garam Masala
While ostensibly Indian, Garam Masala is really just a unique blend of other dry earthy spices, like Cumin, Turmeric, Cardamom, Ginger, etc.  The exact proportions and contents of the blend vary from producer to producer; S.P. has found great gastronomic success with the DEEP Garam Masala blend, but it's always helpful to reinforce Garam Masala with some special forces.
Fenugreek Seeds, courtesy of Italian Wikipedia.
You may not have heard of Fenugreek, but if you have eaten food from Ethiopia, India, or anywhere in between, chances are you have tasted it.  In seed form, this transformative spice looks like little yellow mosaic tiles; once ground to powder, it becomes the lynchpin of a number of cuisines.  Fenugreek complements Garam Masala so well, that one can almost forget how striking it is on its own.  Chalky, with notes of bitterness, the first taste of Fenugreek evokes green herbs; this is followed almost immediately by two or three secondary flavors too deep to accurately define, and too fleeting to pin down.  A note: unless you want to use the seeds to make your own little home mosaic, you should buy Fenugreek already ground.  Unless, of course, you want to spend an hour with a mortar and pestle convincing the seeds to give up their magic.  A roll-over-and-take-my-essence seed like cumin, this is not!

With the fighting corps of the spice army conscripted, S.P. quickly drafted Cumin, Coriander, and various other flunkies into service for logistical support and intelligence services.  But something was still missing.  This sausage would not be battle-ready without something - something truly special - to bring it all together.  The street shawarmas had creamy hummus and yogurt sauces to augment the savor of the meat.  S.P. couldn't use hummus (due to ongoing negotiations with the Israeli Embassy over a hummus-centric sausage, and how much tabbouleh is appropriate), so what would it be?

Oh.  Hello, Ricotta.  I didn't see you come in.  What?  You've been there the whole time, just creaming up the atmosphere?  Wait!  You think that you would be perfect for the role of "chief creamer and binder?"  Well then, I think you had better get in the meat bowl, no?
Shawarma Sausage in the flesh.

S.P. really can't say enough about the use of ricotta in sausages, in general, and this sausage, in particular.  The benefits become visible as soon as it gets mixed into the meat hash.  What was once angular and gritty becomes undulating and smooth, as the ricotta fills interstitial spaces in the sausage matrix, and the meat turns a pleasant pinkish-orange.  This visual transformation is as pleasing as that of coffee being creamed, and no less striking.

Unfortunately, S.P. spent a little too much time drooling over the ricotta, and neglected to take stock of how much sausage casing was on hand.  As a result, the last pound or two of this mix could not be stuffed!  When he was told of the news, S.P. quickly devolved into a disconsolate mess of sobs and "woe is meeeeeeees."  The whole scene was really quite pathetic, until a senior partner of S.P.'s (whom we will call Krawtch, for lack of any better name) suggested that the leftovers be rolled into Sausage's diminutive culinary cousin, the meatball.

Were these meatballs worth crying for?  Well, actually... yes.
The meatballs were promptly fried, and enjoyed with pita and tzatziki sauce (because while the ricotta was creamy, nothing can never be creamy enough).

The next day, S.P. cooked the first coils.  Once again, S.P. used a method designed to maximize crispiness.  First, a boil:

Oooh, how steamy... HEY!  SILVIO!  GET BACK IN THE STUFFER!

Then, chop, and fry up the nubbins:
Check out the browned and caramelized faces.  Mmmm...

And there you have it.  A very succulent shawarma sausage.  It also bears mentioning that the water left over from the initial boiling is a rich and hearty broth, ideal for rice.

We started with a coil of sausage, and we end with a coil of sausage.  If only more of life could come full circle like that.
This has been S.P.'s favorite sausage so far.  That S.P. is a sucker for shawarma does not detract from the importance of this statement.  Not only did this sausage manage to almost perfectly capture the Middle-Eastern flavors sought, but the ricotta-aided texture was superb, regardless of flavor.  This is a sausage to be made again, soon, and in great quantity.  It could be fun to add diced fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, just to give it a little more freshness.  What say ye, voracious sausage readers, should this sausage get thrown down the hallway of fame?   [Editor's note: Damnit!  We were so close to getting through a whole post without this kind of childish piffle.]

Stay tuned for Heart & Soul Sausage (Hint: it involves smoked turkey tails)!


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