When I was of middle-school-age and the last day of school dragged on as though the teachers had unanimously decided to kill us with boredom, I would doodle little depictions of all of the exciting things I had to look forward to in the upcoming summer months. (I was a notorious side-margin-scribbling doodle-maniac, by the way. The pointy-S? Pfft, I had probably drawn ten thousand of them by the third grade. I was a doodle pro.)
There were baseball games and bike rides and beach trips to anticipate, and so the once-white spaces in my pages of notes were filled with seashells and grand slams. However, there was one event in particular that I would reserve an entire page to draw out– one thing I so looked forward to that I had to fill sheet corner-to-corner with pictures of every exciting thing about it– and that was visiting my family in Michigan.
Most summers we would make the 10-or-so-hour trip up to see my Aunt Sandy, Uncle Joe, and cousins Rosie, Kasi, and Joey in what can only be described as “the Little Italy of Michigan”. I idolized my older cousins Rosie and KaSandra, who I tried to be like in every way imaginable, right down to loving their favorite stores and their favorite movies and their favorite colors. I thought my cousin Joey was the coolest person ever to walk the earth, and I always tried to impress him although he was/is much, much, much more of a restless daredevil than I am. (If I could put even more emphasis on the “much,” I would.) My Uncle Joe is very Italian, very loud, and very hilarious, and I loved joking around with him and seeing how animated and smart-assy he would get as we played card and board games (which, by the way, you cannot go a week without if you are a member of my family). But the person I was most excited to see was my Aunt Sandy.
My Aunt Sandy is a German woman elbowing her way through the constant pack of Sicilians who have their noses in (and opinions about) every detail of every thing she does. She is a bit of a hardass at times and doesn’t take anyone’s shit– my Uncle Joe jokingly calls her a pitbull– but she’s also an extremely loving, genuine, positive, and selfless person, so you really never know what you’re going to get with her. She’s impressive in every way, from how she deals with a nosy neighborhood that I could never keep my cool in, to the way she cares for her children (and two grandchildren), to the fact that she can cook better Italian food than any full-blooded Italian I have ever met. Better than your Italian grandmother, I bet. (Oh yes I did. I went there. No disrespect meant to your grandmother, of course.)
I looked forward to long talks and big meals with my Aunt Sandy most of all, and I was never let down. The woman feeds dozens of people on the regular– she is the epitome of a great host– so you can only imagine the feasts we’d enjoy when we visited. However, as we got older, we weren’t able to make the trip up to Michigan anymore due to busy schedules and my brother’s disability worsening, so the food and family fun I loved so much became fond memories that were rarely added to.
Thankfully, this year my Aunt Sandy and Uncle Joe came to visit for a week, and although it certainly wasn’t enough time, there were plenty of new memories made to add to the collection. My favorite of which (as should be no surprise to you) were food-related, as my entire family (and my boyfriend) worked together to make a huge dinner one night. My Aunt Sandy made her famous Breaded Sausage and A’moigue and I was finally of age, experience, and interest to actually help. My Uncle Joe made his brussel sprouts which turned a very skeptical James and I into serious sprout-lovers– don’t worry, I’ll post the recipe on here when I get a chance. James peeled what seemed like a hundred cloves of garlic. My mom and grandparents quick to lend a hand when requests to “TURN THE SAUSAGES!”, “STIR THE POT!”, or “HAND ME THE OLIVE OIL!” were shouted out to nobody in particular. I made clams in white wine garlic sauce, and my Aunt Sandy helped me find the perfect balance in acidity. And, of course, we all went back-and-forth between joking and nearly biting eachothers heads off the entire time. It was perfect.
Every single thing we made turned out just beyond-words-amazing, but I have got to tell you, nothing even held a candle to my Aunt Sandy’s Breaded Sausages and A’moigue. Crispy breadcrumbs replaced the typical casings of Italian sausages, a recipe that my Aunt Sandy says “might be Italian, but might not be. My father-in-law makes them and I learned from him. He says they’re Sicilian, but I never in my life met another Italian who’s heard of them.” On top of the breaded sausages, everyone piled on a ton of the A’moigue, which is made of tomatoes, oregano, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper, and is a seriously tasty alternative to the cooked marinara that is typically loaded on top of sausage sandwiches. (The kids in my Aunt’s town tell their parents– “Mrs. Mirabile makes better A’moigue than you, and she’s not even Italian,” and while I’ve never had anyone else’s A’moigue, I really don’t doubt their judgment.) Aunt Sandy also puts together some peppers and onions to throw on top as well, and everyone goes to town… and when I say goes to town, I mean it. A lesser woman my size would not have been able to handle the amount of food I put down that night over the course of 3 days. I couldn’t even feel guilty about it, I was so impressed with myself. But I digress.
Anyway, I’ve made the Breaded Italian Sausage Sandwiches twice since then, and I haven’t given you the recipe before now because… well… I have no good excuse to tell you, but it’s here now for you, so I hope you’re not too mad at me for holding out. I decided to change things up this time around and instead of making the typical sauteed peppers and onions, I put together a Roasted Red Pepper Relish to compliment the A’moigue, which was also awesome, just so you know. This is an easy meal to put together and it is perfect to make for football season, so give it a try!
- 6 steak sandwich rolls
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 6 Italian sausages (hot or mild, although I prefer hot!)
- 2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs (freshly made are best)
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 large cans petite diced tomatoes
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 lemons, juice of
- 4 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 2 roasted red peppers, peeled, seeded, and sliced
- 4 cloves roasted garlic, mashed
- 1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Drain the tomatoes and place in a large bowl. Add the remaining A’moigue ingredients and stir together to combine. Cover and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour (or in the freezer for 15-20 minutes). Place on counter to bring to room temperature 30 minutes before serving.
- Combine all Roasted Red Pepper Relish ingredients in a medium-sized bowl, mixing well to combine. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 30 mins before serving.
- Preheat the broiler.
- Using a pairing knife, gently slice down the sides of a sausage to make an incision in the casing. Carefully remove the casing, making sure to maintain the shape of the sausage. Dip the sausage in the egg, and then into the breadcrumb to coat, turning and patting to adhere. Repeat with remaining sausages.
- Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray and arrange the breaded sausages so that they do not touch.
- Place under the broiler (about 5 inches from the heat source) for 5 minutes, and then turn. Continue to turn every 5 minutes until the breadcrumbs turn golden brown and the internal temperature of the sausages reaches 165 degrees F (20-30 minutes, depending on your broiler).
- Place a Breaded Italian Sausage on a steak sandwich roll and top with a generous amount of A’moigue and a bit of Roasted Red Pepper Relish.