Saturday, 16 February 2008

Sausage and Peppers

When people discuss the best food movies of all time, the same names come up time and again: Tampopo, Babette's Feast, Eat Drink Man Woman. And nothing at all wrong with any of those. But they are not my choice. For me, the best food film ever made is Dinner Rush. It really staggers me that Bob Giraldi could go from making films for Pat Benatar and Michael Jackson, construct this work of near perfection, and then fade back into making films for Pat Benatar, Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie. The story is good, the performances are great and the cinematography - especially in the blackout scene where the kitchen is lit by the gas flames from the stoves - is brilliant. But the absolutely best bit is when the soux chef, Duncan, comes in to cook a simple dish of sausage and peppers for Louis Cropa (played by Danny Aiello) - the owner and current chef's father.

Now, we'd eaten many a sausage before seeing this movie, and had done a fair bit of experimenting with them in cooking. But Dinner Rush had a big impact on the way we do them. If you google "sausage and peppers" you will find countless recipes for similar dishes. It is clearly a staple of Italian American cooking - but for an Australian and a South African there was a degree of novelty.

The method we've pretty much settled on is this:
Heat a heavy-based saute pan and add quite a lot of good olive oil. Cut fresh Italian sausage (the sort flavoured with fennel and chilli) into large chunks and throw them into the hot oil. While they are browning really well, add an onion, peeled and sliced, and let it take a bit of colour. Add peppers, cut into 8ths (we usually do it with red peppers, but if we can get one of those "traffic light" packs, use that) and saute until it all begins to soften. Add quite a lot of sliced garlic. Sometimes we add a little balsamic at this stage, but most usually we go nuts with dried oregano and marjoram. Then add either a tin of chopped tomatoes, or a good slosh of passata, and simmer until thick. We'll either eat it just like this, or use it as a sauce for pasta. We think it is better if you add the drained pasta to the pan and toss it around for a few minutes, so the juices all soak in.

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