Here's what I like about this recipe: It takes two major cooking principles for flavor—the Maillard reaction and caramelization—and combines them into one ridiculously delicious result. First, the sausages are heavily browned, then all that flavor is deglazed with apple cider, which is then reduced down into a syrupy glaze. As the natural sugars (and acidity) in the apple cider concentrate with the pan drippings, you end up with something that tastes like it was cooking for hours and hours.
The inspiration for this recipe came from Everyday Food, but I switched out the accompanying butternut squash purée for polenta with sharp cheddar to keep everything from getting too sweet. The key here is to find real apple cider (i.e. unfiltered apple juice not from concentrate), because it's the soul of the recipe.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium yellow onions, cut into 1-inch wedges
- 1.5 pounds mild sausages, pork or turkey or chicken
- 10 fresh sage leaves
- 2 cups apple cider
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup polenta
- 5 cups water
- 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar
In a large (12-inch) skillet large enough to hold the sausages comfortably, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add sausages and cook, turning once, until they are a deep golden brown. Halfway through cooking, add onions to pan and toss to coat them in the oil.
Add cider, sage leaves, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer quite rapidly until cider reduces into a glaze and coats the back of a spoon, about 30 minutes.
In the meantime, bring water to boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Whisk in polenta in a slow stream, season with salt and pepper, and return to a boil. Turn heat to low and cook until water is absorbed and polenta is very soft. Stir in cheddar and season to taste.
Divide polenta among bowls and top with sausages and onion. Spoon the pan liquid on top of the sausages and serve immediately.