Screw Christmas—fall is the most wonderful time of year. In my part of the world, it signals that the oppressive sauna of summer is in full retreat, yet we are still months away from ice topping our driveways like a $6 cupcake. The sun rises at a manageably early hour of the day, and stays put for an amount of time conducive to doing a not-ridiculous amount of yard work. Throw in the parts of football that don’t end up killing a guy, plus the MLB postseason for the cane-and-walker set, and October/November are probably the Kings of Months.
More importantly, though, fall is the season during which we finally allow ourselves to celebrate food and drink and pleasure; it’s the closest thing we have to a modern, secular Bacchanalia. Around Halloween, and especially just after, grocery stores are so desperate for you to walk away with cartfuls of candy that taking it from a baby would be a poor use of your time. On Thanksgiving, the man (because only men are dumb enough to do this) who goes back to the kitchen to reload his Chinet with another serving of dressing is a curiosity worthy of admiration and respect. In summer, the same eager appetite earns jeers and scorn. To hell with swimsuit season! To hell with it all! Let’s eat this shit.
If, like me, you spend the entire calendar year stuffing your head with calorically dense and nutritionally sparse foods like potatoes, pie, and potatoes pie, you may not realize that many people merely vacation in this dietary hellworld, though you and I may be full-time residents. Others will be looking forward to indulging in a fattening casserole or tasty treat, but you’re trying to find something you don’t already have in tupperware at home. That’s fine! Well, it’s not fine, but, uhhh, well … we’re still going to make the Baked Sausage Meat Ring, so do whatever it is you need to do to move on.
If there has been a theme to the Woe of Cooking series thus far other than its sporadic publication, it has been that meat can be fairly gross. As a dedicated omnivore, I was shocked to learn how quickly, and how deeply, the Rombauers’ personal cookbook could inspire skepticism as to the wisdom of continuous meat consumption. Admittedly, it has troubled me. As a result, I was not enthusiastic about preparing Baked Sausage Meat Ring, which sounds more like a Mad Lib than it does a meal, but against my better judgment, I did it anyway. To follow in my footsteps, first assemble your ingredients.
Of note: Joy does not specify what type of sausage, onion, or parsley to use; notice that I chose to procure generic, Vidalia, and domestic varieties, respectively. I don’t know what kind of money you think I earn to reproduce this Dump Brunch, but it damn sure ain’t enough to keep my sausage on-brand. And if you think I’m gonna spend an extra $1/pound to have some guy shuck the skin off my white onion, then you got another damn thing coming. Also, you may be wondering why I have a shitload of eggs. Well, that’s because you’re supposed to serve this nightmare with eight fucking scrambled fucking eggs.
I do not believe eggs to have ever been as popular a garnish as Joy would frequently indicate, but if the Rombauers were representative of society at large, owning a chicken in the 1940s was the most lucrative thing you could do outside of humping a Kennedy. One other key: I don’t know what a “7-inch ring mold” is. I used an 8-inch springform pan and a 3-inch, $2 ramekin in the center. I don’t know if that adds up, I’m not a mathematician. Hell, I’m barely a cook. But it did produce a Meat Ring, so I guess what I am saying is don’t be terribly concerned about running out to the Mold Store specifically for this recipe.
So, your first move is to pour some corn flakes in a bowl. Joy calls for 3 tablespoons, but remember that we are improvising our cooking vessel here, so just put enough in there to cover the bottom of the pan or whatever. For mine, that ended up being like 40 flakes. You may need 41 flakes, or 20 flakes, or a thousand flakes if you’re turning this into some kinda Sausage by the Foot menace, so just do whatever feels right. Please don’t get tripped up in the flake-deployment stage—it is the absolute least of our concerns at this point.
Next, combine five things. Specifically, mix your 1lb sausage, 1tbsp of minced onion, ¾c of bread crumbs, 2tbsp chopped parsley, and one beaten egg (incredibly, this is an altogether separate egg from The Scrambling Eight) in a big bowl. A note on chopping parsley: It is horrible, and the world collectively loathes it. The best way to tackle this gobsmackingly annoying chore is to take out your frustrations while you work: Grab a handful of the junk like it’s Bart Simpson’s neck and just rip it without regard of decency or anything else. There will be some stems tagging along for the ride, and you may dispose of them if you wish. But if you ask me, you’re not selling this shit for $15/gram, so suck it up and chop some stems. You could use the chlorophyll.
Once everything is thoroughly combined, you’ll need to grease your pan (I forgot to do this part) and transfer the mixture from the bowl to the makeshift ring mold. It’s a bit weird mashing spicy pig parts into geometric shapes—like playing with toxic Play-Doh—but manage to persevere and you’ll have a big blob of cooked meat for some reason.
After 15 minutes in your 350 degree oven, your Sausage Meat Ring will be approaching fully baked status, and you will be experiencing a mild gustatory anticipation or fast-onset existential dread, depending on what side of the aisle you’re on. Your kitchen will smell like sausage, though, which—compared to the earth flinging out of orbit and into the dark, cold vacuum of space—is not the worst circumstance today could bring.
At this point, you should start periodically checking your Breakfast Circle for doneness, which would require using a thermometer to determine that it hasreached an internal temperature of at least 150 degrees. My oven, which was constructed by the laziest Whirlpool engineer imaginable after a three-beer lunch, needed about 25 minutes total to bring the meat up to a safe temp, and even then it was a little iffy in places. It wouldn’t hurt to aim for 160, especially if you’re buying discount floor sausage like I did. You may drain the meat after 15 minutes, but you may not need to. Life is short, so enjoy a little liquid fat at the bottom of your pork cake, if you want. Nobody’s watching.
Now for the garnish, which is eggs. Cook a lot of eggs and then put them on the thing. Does that sound right to you? Is that a reasonable request for a person from the past to ask of you? What if I told you that, structurally, that the Meat Ring in question is seemingly only able to accommodate two, maybe three eggs at most? What would you do with the remaining half-dozen eggs you inexplicably scrambled, with cream and paprika no less? Would you throw them away? Would you hurl them at your dogs in a fit of terrible rage? If so, consider cooking a handful of eggs first, to see if you really have it in you to prepare the lion’s share of a carton, and/or eat a bucketful of unexpected breakfast leftovers.
Don’t forget to imagine the eggs with an unattractive brownish hue as you are completing this calculus, since that is the color that the paprika will impart when you are forced by our malevolent cookbook authors to douse your food in it. Fantastic.
So is it any good? Well, yeah, of course it’s good. It’s just a bunch of sausage. I don’t know what you’d have to add to sausage in order to make it taste bad, but it definitely ain’t eggs and bread. Hell, you could stuff a whole Chuck Palahniuk novel into an organic casing and I’d at least try it.
Is Baked Sausage Meat Ring a meal, though? No. Definitely not. Please do not ever ask me that again. You could conceivably be 10 times the photographer and cook that I am and still be unable to transform this mess into anything not evocative of a hemorrhoid pillow. So, no, do not make this meal for your next work outing, do not bring it with you to Book Club, do not prepare it for Thanksgiving. Do not take it here or there, do not take it anywhere—except for down to the docks, where you can cut it up like a damn dead body and stick it on ice in some secret place your family doesn’t know about.
But do try and sneak bites of it when you can. This ol’ nasty-ass meat bar may not be pretty, but it tastes pretty damn good.