Fair Food: Italian Sausage and Peppers

by Elizabeth Dengler, The Huckleberry Home

I got a little sad the other day. Of all the things that we are missing out on this year, the one thing I miss probably most of all is the fair. I grew up going to the fair, winning ribbons for this and that, and then when I grew up I had my own “fair enthusiast” family. My husband, our kids and I entered in items at the fair and started a new collection of ribbons. Every year we’d buy the big ticket book in advance and endless ride bracelets. We’d arrive at the fair gate before the rides even opened and we stayed until closing. We loved the rodeo, the demolition derby, the free musical acts and hypnotist performances. We’d stroll through all the livestock shelters admiring all the kids who worked so hard raising and presenting their animals. Then we’d pass by the stables adoring all the horses along the way.

Every step there was something new to see and share. My husband and son loved the antique tractors and tools while my daughter and I would look at old laundry accoutrements and thank our lucky stars for Kenmore and electricity. We’d then go off to find our fair entries at the exhibit halls to see what color ribbon we won. I’d always stop to admire all the quilts, my great grandmother was an incredible quilter and that exhibit reminds me of her. My husband loved the photography exhibits and would walk through the aisles of photographs. Our daughter, Stella always liked to see the table setting exhibits. And our son Josh, well, Josh was there mostly for the rides. As the sun started to get low in the sky, we’d all climb aboard the ferris wheel for an aerial view of the fairgrounds and the railyards. And while most of this is an impossibility to recreate at our home, one thing I can do is make another favorite part of the fair: the food!

No matter where you are on the fairgrounds you can smell something identifiable coming from somewhere, whether it’s the sugar from the cotton candy machines, the oil for corn dogs, the smoke from the BBQ pits, the hot kernels for the kettle corn, the stir frying of vegetables or my all time favorite… funnel cakes; the truth is there is nothing like fair food. Over this summer I wanted to recreate a few items we enjoy and I started with the Italian Sausage and Peppers. You will smell this cooking and be taken right to the fair food row. I had never made these before and when I put them together my family were drooling from the smells alone. It has become an instant favorite. This is a versatile recipe and while I put the sandwiches together using a large hoagie type roll, you can use hawaiian rolls for sliders, serve as a main dish with a hunk of Italian bread on the side, or if you are watching your carbs, you can skip the bread all together. I really like crumbling the sausage, but you can totally use italian sausage links. Hot or sweet, you can’t go wrong.

1 pound ground Italian sausage, sweet or hot
1 T olive oil
½ C chopped red bell pepper
½ C chopped yellow bell pepper
½ C chopped orange or green bell pepper
1 medium onion diced
1 clove minced garlic
2 T Italian dressing
½ C marinara sauce
1 T Italian seasoning
Dried basil for topping garnish
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Shredded parmesan cheese
1 package Franz Outdoor Rolls

Brown the sausage in a large saute pan, spoon out sausage and set aside in a bowl. Do not drain off grease, you’re going to saute the peppers, onion and garlic in the sausage grease over medium heat. If you do not have much grease you can add 1 T olive oil and bring to temperature before adding your veggies. Saute until tender and onions are translucent. Add the sausage back into the pan with your veggies, turn down the heat to simmer. Add dressing, marinara and Italian seasoning. Heat through. Try not to drool into the pan.

Line a broiler safe pan with foil and spray with a little non-stick spray. Open up your outdoor rolls. Scoop several large spoonfuls of the sausage saute mix into your rolls. Line the filled rolls up in the pan. Sprinkle as much mozzarella cheese over each sandwich as you like and place under the broiler for a couple minutes or until the cheese starts to brown and bubble. Remove from the broiler and garnish with a little dried basil. If you choose no cheese, you can skip the broiler step.

Serve up with some slices of fresh melon and maybe a little caesar salad and you’ve got a County Fair inspired meal. Have a favorite fair food? Share it with us! elizabeth@huckleberrypress.com