I love Hot Doug's in Chicago; unfortunately (and fortunately), everyone else does, too. The wonderland of encased meats is only a mile from my house but is always completely and utterly packed. I rarely find the time or energy to go.
That means when I do go, I usually don't branch out to try the weekly sausage specials, even though they're probably wildly good. No, I order the one thing I crave above all else: the Italian sausage. It is perfect. My recreation at home isn't quite that good, but it's very, very close.
Instead of serving the Italian sausage with the typical topping of onions and peppers, owner Doug Sohn advises a strange mix of caramelized onions, mustard, and giardiniera (the ubiquitous condiment in Chicago, featuring a combination of pickled vegetables, chiles, and oil). I'd never dream of combining those three together in any normal setting, but here they work absolute wonders. The onions impart their sweetness, giardiniera adds crunch and spice, while the mustard lends a quick, sharp attack to each bite. Of course, it helps to use a good quality sausage, too. (Doug would want you to.)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 4 Italian sausages
- 4 rolls (or larger hot dogs buns)
- Dijon mustard
Preheat the oven to its warm setting. Wrap the rolls in aluminum foil, and place in the oven to warm.
Pour 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil into a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the onions. Stir occasionally, and cook until just starting to brown. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until caramelized and soft, about 30 minutes.
With about 20 minutes left, pour the remaining half tablespoon of oil into a second skillet and turn the heat to medium-high. Add the sausages and cook until browned on both sides, one to two minutes a side. Remove the sausages and transfer them to the skillet with the onions. Allow them to finish cooking, about 15 minutes. They should reach an internal temperature of 150°F.
Remove the rolls from the oven. Cut a slit in each for the sausage, making sure not to cut all the way through. Add one Italian sausage to each roll, and top each with some mustard, a couple spoonfuls of the caramelized onions, and enough giardiniera as you like. Serve immediately with some chips.