Saturday, November 17, 2007

Panko, I am Putty in Your Hands.

Today was a bright and chilly and colorful fall day. Andy and I went for a big and exhausting walk at Pony Pasture, huffing and puffing and burning many calories in the process. After all that exercise and fresh air, we felt we deserved a somewhat decadent dinner. Andy suggested some vegetarian sausages like the fabulous ones you can get in England. There were no objections coming from me! He turned to one of our favorite books, Nigel Slater's "Real Food," for inspiration.

We minced garlic, hot red chillies and half an onion. Then we food-processed a 15 oz. can of drained and rinsed cannellini beans and some fresh parsley to a coarse paste and dumped all of the above in a bowl with just a couple of ounces of grated cheese (the recipe called for Lancashire, but we used Cheshire. Any hard sharp cheese would probably do), half a beaten egg, a generous sprinkle with fresh ground pepper and a not-so-generous sprinkle of salt. The lovely blob was then incorporated and well chilled to firm it up.

A little while later, we floured a board, dumped the lovely blob onto it, divided it into four bits and formed each bit into a flour coated sausage shape. We then brushed each roll with beaten egg and rolled it in panko, my new best friend.

I don't know what panko is made of, but I don't care--it's divine! And if you roll something in it and deep fry it, I promise I WILL eat it. It is crispy, light and crunchy. I believe it is a close relative to good old bread crumbs, but who knows? It might be made of shiny-eyed baby animals. I'm blinded by its charms.

So once we formed our nice fat sausages, we chilled them in the freezer while about 3" worth of peanut oil was getting really hot. Then in they went, one or two at a time until they were brown and gorgeous, which took 2 to 3 minutes.

We ate them with roasted brussels sprouts and fennel, and they just melted in our mouths. I think this is a great basic recipe in which the elements could be changed to suit your tastes. You could use a different type of bean, or change up the herbs and spices, or try different cheeses in it. But don't substitute the panko or I'll give you a spanko.

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