Congratulations — you’ve made it to Christmas Eve! You’ve already survived 87 holiday parties, open houses, and meet-n-greets. So now it’s time to tuck in for the big holiday dinners, and for the mischief to really get warmed up!
In years past, my family has taken Christmas as a culinary challenge. Risotto and Beef Wellington graced the menu and turned out well, but we’ve also had our share of mischief. We went a little overboard with a torch one year and had more brulee than creme, and to this day Mother swears she’ll never make another Buche de Noel (Jennifer and I were teenagers and apparently heckled its appearance. I say ‘apparently’ because neither of us remember it, but Mom still wears her Culinary Purple Heart to this day).
This year, we ‘re totally slummin’ it. It’s Soup-a-Palooza at the Miller Household, featuring a Lentil-Spinach Soup (inspired by Matthew’s) a White Chicken Chili (with oodles of toppings) and piles upon piles of cornbread. Mom’s a little stressed about how you set a table that doesn’t look like a soup kitchen, but otherwise we’re kinda pumped about having a dinner plan that doesn’t require six weeks of preperation and an associate’s degree in culinary arts.
That being said, it wouldn’t be Christmas without just a scoche of Mischief. For a snack before we get to slurping our soup, we’re having Turkey Sausage Balls. I’m very proud of this very mischievous recipe, because for the first time, the recipe I devised in my Squirrel Brain actually turned out tasting BETTER than I had imagined. Vive le Mischief!
Before I dive i to briefest of procedurals, allow me some background justification. I LOVE sausage balls, but I am not a fan of the crazy amounts of saturated fat in pork sausage. Turkey sausage has the same flavor, but way less fat. So far so good. But the lack of fat also means a lack of moisture, and nobody loves a dry, Bisquick-brick sausage ball. To fix this, I added a mixture of sauteed onion and spinach, which also added flavor and increased the nutritional value. Okay, maybe not enough to counteract the cheese, but every little bit helps. Here’s the recipe, and how I did it.
Turkey Sausage Balls
1.25 lbs spicy turkey sausage
2.25 cups Bisquick or Pioneer baking mix
1.5 cups sharp cheddar cheese
half a cup of parmesan cheese
1 package of frozen spinach, thawed and chopped
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic
First, set your sausage out to come to room temperature…otherwise when you mix it up with the other stuff later, your paws will FREEZE. Meanwhile, thaw your spinach in the microwave (follow package instructions). While that’s nuking, finely dice and start sauteeing your onions in a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper for about seven minutes. Squeeze out all the moisture out of the spinach, chop it and finely and add it to the onions, along with the garlic. Shake in a little spice (I used 2 tsp of smoked paprika) and saute for three more minutes.
Meanwhile, add your Bisquick and shredded cheese to a large mixing bowl.
Here’a an important point regarding the cheese: First, shred your own cheese. It tastes SO much better. Second, use full-fat cheese. That reduced fat stuff is like orange wax. It’s a waste of calories. Go real or go home! Okay, time to tackle your sausage.
I used this Jennie-O stuff. Split the casings, then kinda crumble it in with your fingers. No, you DO NOT cook it first. YES, this creeps me out, too. But you need the fat from the cooking to make the baking mix moist. Just don’t think about it too much.
Next, mix in the slightly cooled spinach mixture with the sausage/bisquick/cheese mixture, and use your hands to mix it together. The addition of the spinach and onion makes it come together with less effort than normal pork-only sausage balls.
Finally, just roll into balls, place on a greased cookie sheet, and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. I have no “after” pictures because I only made two to test. Trust me, they were surprisingly delicious. We’re making the rest to precede our Soup-a-Palooza on Sunday.
So, that’s it from Kitchen Mischief, at least for 2011. Here’s wishing that whether you decide to go big or small, traditional or mischievous, that you have a fantastic holiday filled with friends, family, and good food. Merry Christmas!