Food & Drink

An Italian sausage saute, minus fat

A while back a good friend of mine, Scott, who enjoys cooking as much as I do, told me that he could no longer keep his back issues of Fine Cooking magazine and other food and wine magazines because the piles were getting out of hand. When Scott asked if I would be interested in the magazines I jumped at the opportunity. Soon, box-upon-box of his magazines filled my office.

I didn't start looking through the old Fine Cooking issues until a lazy weekend last summer. I'd pull out three magazines at a time and skim through them. Among the many things I learned from reading them: the complete Old Bays brand seafood seasoning story (beginning with who created it and why), everything I ever wanted to know about scallops from calicos (tiny) to sea (large), and why baking powder is necessary when the acid content of a cake, cookie, muffin or cupcake goes up (such as when adding apple sauce).

Fine Cooking is where I found an intriguing recipe for sausage, potato, and apple sauté. I liked the use of apples with the other two ingredients and thought of the apple as an interesting, complex and low-fat flavor layer. Yet, the recipe, for lean folks like me, turned out to be problematic.

Fine Cooking used a couple tablespoons of oil to sauté the Italian sausage, potatoes, and apples. Total for the oil alone: 238 calories and 27 fat grams. Potatoes and apples contribute no fat, but Italian sausage sure does — 141 fat grams per pound. I figured I could lower the fat and cooking time by changing a few things.

First, I decided that, since the recipe called for russet (baking) potatoes anyhow, to use baked russets instead of raw. You already know how much I like real Italian sausage, but it's got too much fat for my lean food plan, so I switched to Italian turkey sausage.

Instead of sautéing the sausage and onion in so much olive oil, I figured a teaspoon would suffice if I used a nonstick pan. That leaner sausage still gave off a little fat and that's when I added the onion. I drained the fat from cooking the onion and sausage in a colander while I sautéed the already cooked potato and apple.

However, I wasn't certain what kind of apple to use. I knew that a Red Delicious would probably turn to mush, so I consulted another Fine Cooking article about apples and learned that the best would be a Rome apple.

This sauté was finished with an almost fat-free sauce, but I found it too stingy for this mixture and doubled it.

Finally, because it lacked color I added a cup of baby peas at the end.

How did my new sauté turn out? It was as good as I'd imagined it would be when I first read the original recipe. Now, though, it looked better, tasted great and was much lower in fat and calories. I'd say that's "fine cooking," too.

Contact Don Mauer at

Sausage, Potato and Apple Sauté with Baby Peas

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound hot Italian turkey sausage (links with casings removed)

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)

1 large (5-6 ounces) yellow onion, peeled and chopped (about 2 cups)

2 large (12-13 ounces each) russet potatoes, baked and cooled

1 large Rome apple, quartered and cored

1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

1/4 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crumbled

1 cup frozen petite or baby peas, defrosted

Add 1 teaspoon oil to an 11- to 12-inch heavy-bottomed nonstick skillet and place over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add sausage and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring and breaking up sausage with the side of a wooden spoon, until sausage begins to lose its pink color. Add onion and continue cooking until sausage has begun to turn a golden brown, about 8-10 minutes total.

While sausage and onion cook, cut potatoes and apple (leave the skins on) into 1/2-inch cubes.

Scrape cooked sausage and onions into a colander to drain. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil to the skillet with potatoes; season with black pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the potato and apple are golden brown, about 8 minutes.

While potatoes cook, whisk ketchup, mustard, thyme and 1/4 cup water in a small bowl. Return sausage and onions to the skillet, add peas and stir in ketchup mixture. Cook, stirring frequently, until heated through, about 3 minutes. Taste and, if necessary, adjust seasoning before serving. Serves four.

Nutrition values per serving: 458 calories (24.5 percent from fat), 12.5 g fat (1.9 g saturated fat), 56.9 g carbohydrates, 14 g sugars, 7 g fiber, 25 g protein, 75 mg cholesterol, 1,054 mg sodium.

Salt Sense: From where did all the sodium come? Good question. Fifty-six percent of the sodium comes from the sausage. Ketchup and mustard together contribute 39 percent. If you need to watch your sodium intake, look for lower sodium turkey sausage and use sodium-free ketchup and mustard.