Dinner in a hurry can be easier than you think

April 21, 2023

Spring break is over, kids are back in school for the rest of the semester, folks are tending their gardens and we’re counting the days until the farmers markets open. During these busy times when we’re juggling home-improvement projects and after-school activities, it’s easy to forget to pull something out of the freezer for the evening meal. There are a few ingredients I try to keep on hand for the days when dinnertime arrives and I haven’t made any menu plans.

The best of these don’t need to be frozen and will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks, such as the main ingredient for the dish in the photo: precooked sausage. You’ll find these near the packaged luncheon meat and hot dogs, offered in a variety of styles and flavors. We usually select turkey kielbasa, although there are beef and chicken options as well.

The word kielbasa is actually the Polish term for any type of sausage, from the Turkish word that describes the method used to make them. These are usually made with pork, but you’ll also find similar herb and spice seasonings mixtures in turkey, chicken, lamb, veal, venison and beef varieties. For any sausage, meat is ground with fat and flavorings, stuffed into casings and cured with salt or smoke.

Sausage has been around for more than 4,000 years, an economical way to make use of the last bits of meat and fat left after an animal is butchered. Casings for sausage were originally the animal’s intestines, although today you can find plant-based versions as well. Sausage can be cooked any number of ways — steamed, sautéed, boiled, broiled, baked and grilled. 

The recipe for the dish in the photo calls for thick-sliced sausage and cooked potatoes. I prefer leftover potatoes, which are handy for this purpose; if you only have fresh potatoes available, you can steam them in the microwave for just a few minutes. The assembly begins with sautéing chopped onions, adding sausage pieces and halved new potatoes. Once things start to brown, you’ll deglaze the pan with broth or stock and stir in spicy mustard. Dinner is ready. 

Another variation on this theme combines sliced turkey kielbasa with pasta and a creamy cheese sauce for a one-pot meal. The dish is ready to serve in about 15 minutes and delivers a nice balance of spices from the chiles in the canned Rotel tomatoes. The only tricky aspect is making sure there isn’t too much watery liquid in the pan after the pasta is cooked and before the cheese is added.

A vegetable-forward alternative features sliced kielbasa and a squash mixture, seasoned with oregano. This can be served over steamed rice or eaten on its own to keep the carbohydrate content a little lower. These recipes are just a few examples of how to bring a hearty meal to the table with minimal effort.

Kielbasa & Potato Skillet

1 T butter
1 chopped onion
1 lb sliced turkey kielbasa
6 halved cooked new potatoes
2/3 C chicken stock
2 T spicy mustard
salt, to taste
parsley for garnish

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add sausage and cook until lightly browned, stirring often. Add potatoes and cook until golden. Deglaze the pan with stock and stir in mustard. Cover and cook over low for another 5 minutes. Adjust seasonings with salt, to taste. Serve garnished with parsley. Yield: 4 servings.

Kielbasa & Pasta Skillet

1 T olive oil
1 lb sliced turkey kielbasa
1 chopped onion
2 chopped garlic cloves
2 C chicken broth
10-oz can Rotel tomatoes
1/2 C whole milk
8 oz pasta
1 C shredded Cheddar cheese
sliced green onions for garnish

Heat olive oil in a deep skillet or small Dutch oven. Add kielbasa and onion; cook until lightly browned. Add garlic and cook one minute. Add broth, tomatoes, milk and pasta. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer until pasta is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in cheese and cover. Allow to rest for 5 minutes while cheese melts. Serve garnished with sliced green onion. Yield: 4 servings.

Sausage & Vegetable Skillet

1 lb smoked sausage
2 small zucchini
1 yellow squash
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 T butter
1/2 C chopped onion
2 minced garlic cloves
1/2 C vegetable broth
1 t oregano
1/2 t red pepper flakes
salt, to taste
snipped chives for garnish

Slice the sausage in half lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch pieces; set aside. Repeat with zucchini and squash; set aside. Halve tomatoes; set aside. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion until translucent, about 3 minutes; add garlic and cook another minute. Add sausage pieces and cook until lightly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in vegetables and cook until crisp-tender, about 6 minutes. Deglaze the pan with broth and stir in seasonings. Serve over a bed of rice and garnish with snipped chives. Yield: 4 servings.

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