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German food festival leaves tasty leftovers

I'm still in a German food coma following this past weekend's Blocktoberfest, an annual blowout the wife — she of Austrian heritage — and I host for friends and family this time of year.

Although we scaled back the bash several years ago when kids came along, we've been ramping it back up recently by incorporating everyone's little ones into the festivities.

Saturday night's soiree drew about 80 guests to our house, with adults sampling a dozen different German beers around the firepit, while the kids bobbed for apples, tested their limbo skills and toasted marshmallows for s'mores.

And a bigger crowd means more food, so we biggie-sized the buffet as well.

While I was outside grilling sausages and brats (shipped in from Germany, this year) Amy was inside setting up a table full of her homemade German potato salad, sauerkraut, cooked purple cabbage, sauteed peppers, cucumber salad and apple salad, along with assorted pickles, mustards and jumbo pretzels.

Guests added to the bounty by bringing pecan pie, pumpkin cheesecake, appetizers and more. From fine friends and family to fantastic food, it was an affair to remember.

***

Now, what to do with all of those the leftovers?

A reheated plate the next day was as good as the night before, but we may eventually want to shake thing up. I thought all of our extra sausages and kraut might make an awesome fall soup, so I Googled said creation and stumbled on a good one from the Food Network's Emeril Lagasse.

I'm not a big fan of Emeril usually (bam THIS, dude!) but I figure the man probably knows his sausage. His recipe is included this week.

In digging through my old clipped recipes, I also came across another one that looks fantastic.

Also starring sausages, although ones of the Italian variety, this recipe serves them with sauteed onions and broiled green tomatoes over cheesy, creamy polenta. But this dish gets a creative kick with a finishing touch of honey and herb-seasoned grapes.

I haven't made it yet, but can already taste its sweet, salty, spicy, savory goodness. The recipe looks more complicated than it is, so it's definitely one I'll be trying soon.

Contact writer Steven Keith at 304-348-1721 or by e-mail at

dailymailfoodguy@aol.com. You can also follow him on Facebook and Pinterest as "DailyMail FoodGuy," on Twitter as "DMFoodGuy" or read his blog at http://blogs.

dailymail.com/foodguy/.

RECIPES

Sauerkraut Soup with Sausage

1 lb. smoked sausage or kielbasa, diced

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 rib celery, finely chopped

1 Tbsp. minced garlic

1 cup hard cider

1 (32-oz.) jar sauerkraut, drained and rinsed briefly

8 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup peeled and cubed potatoes

3 sprigs fresh thyme

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat and add the sausage. Cook until the sausage is caramelized and the fat is rendered, 4-6 minutes. Add onions and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and lightly browned, about 4 minutes.

2. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add cider and cook until almost completely reduced. Add sauerkraut, broth, potatoes, thyme and pepper and bring to a boil.

3. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes and sauerkraut are very tender and the broth is flavorful, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Serve immediately, with hot, crusty bread on the side.

Recipe from Emeril/Food Network.

Polenta and Sausage with Grapes and Green Tomatoes

1 cup coarsely ground cornmeal

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves

4 individual spicy Italian pork sausages (about a pound), preferably flavored with fennel

4 Tbsp. olive oil

1 cup onion, chopped into 1/4-inch dice

2 Tbsp. finely chopped garlic

1 Tbsp. finely chopped ginger

4 green tomatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs.)

1 cup chicken or beef broth or water

1 small head radicchio, about 5 ounces, cut into 1/2 inch strips

1/2 lb. seedless red grapes, cut in half

1/2 lb. seedless green grapes, cut in half

2 Tbsp. honey

1/4  tsp. hot red pepper flakes

2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

1. In heavy bottomed, medium-sized saucepan, bring 6 cups water to a boil over high heat. Season with salt. Whisk the cornmeal into the water in a slow steady stream in order to avoid lumps. Bring the mixture back to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Cook until the polenta is very thick and shiny, about 40 minutes, stirring all the while. Regulate the heat as necessary so the mixture doesn't boil over. When polenta is done, stir in the cheese, butter and 1 teaspoon thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a shallow baking dish, 12 inches in diameter.

2. Preheat the broiler. Cut the tomatoes in half, remove the stems and arrange the halves close together skin-side up on a baking sheet. Set under the broiler on the top shelf and broil until the skin is charred, about 5 minutes. When cool enough to handle, remove the skin and chop the tomato, seeds and all, into 1/2 inch dice.

3. Use a fork to prick sausages 4 times on each side so they don't burst while cooking. Put them in a large heavy bottomed sauté pan. Add 1/4 cup water, cover and bring to a boil and then turn the heat to low and simmer 5 minutes.  Remove the cover. At this point the water should have evaporated - if not, just continue heating another minute or two with the cover off until the pan's dry. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan, increase the heat to medium and brown the sausages, turning them so they color all over, about 10 minutes. Transfer the sausages to a plate.

4. Add onions to the pan, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook until the onions start to brown around the edges, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook until aromatic and tender, about 2 minutes. Add the green tomatoes and stock or water, return the sausages to the pan and cook 30 minutes, uncovered, turning the sausages occasionally so they cook evenly.  Adjust the heat as necessary. (You want the sausages to cook while the sauce thickens, but not so rapidly that the sauce finishes before the sausages cook through.) Set the sausages on top of the polenta. The remaining sauce should be fairly thick. (If it isn't, return the pan to the heat, increase the heat to medium-high and cook until thick.) Pour the sauce over the sausage and polenta.

5. In a small bowl, combine grapes with honey, hot red pepper flakes and remaining thyme and toss well. Wipe out the saute pan, then add the final tablespoons of olive oil and heat the pan on high. Add the grapes and sear 1 minute. Add the radicchio and cook, tossing frequently, until the radicchio wilts and the grapes soften around the edges, about 2 minutes. (This last step is just a quick in-and-out of the pan so things soften and blend a bit, but not so long that the honey burns). Add the vinegar; give one last toss and then distribute the radicchio-grape mixture evenly over the sausages and polenta.

6. Preheat broiler. Set the pan on the second highest shelf in the oven and cook until the grapes are charred and everything is hot, about 5 minutes.  Let rest 4 minutes and then serve.

Recipe from Jody Adams, Chef & Owner of Rialto in Cambridge, Mass..


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