If you’re looking for a quick and easy weeknight meal with few ingredients and little prep time, this is it. This recipe has become a go-to meal for my family when we don’t have a lot of time or energy at the end of a long day. It is also quite filling and a great comfort food option during the cold winter months. AND…it’s kid-tested and approved. My little carnivore couldn’t get enough of it – here she is asking for “more” with her favorite baby sign.
I’ve tried this recipe with sweet or hot italian sausages and even a combination (hot for me and the hubby and sweet for the kids), and any combination works with this recipe. We generally go with sweet, though, because we like the Al Fresco sweet italian style chicken sausage pictured below. Organic is not available in my nearest supermarket, but these have no antibiotics or hormones, and no artificial ingredients including preservatives, nitrates or nitrites.
They’re also gluten-free for those with sensitivities, and I like their very simple ingredient list: “skinless chicken meat, red and green peppers, water, and 2% or less of fennel, black pepper, salt, turbinado sugar, in a natural pork casing.” The nice thing about using chicken sausages in this dish too is that they’re much lower in fat than traditional pork sausages.
Rounding out the meal is polenta, which keeps it an excellent gluten-free option. And it’s the perfect complement to this dish. I love its texture, and it’s both tasty and filling. It’s an Italian dish made from boiled cornmeal, and while it is traditionally slow-cooked, instant varieties can be prepared in minutes. It comes in both pre-cooked and dried form, which can be found in different textures. I prefer a finer ground for a creamier polenta.
Polenta also has some surprising health benefits. It is an excellent source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and vitamin B6. And according to Men’s Health, the carotenoids from milled corn foods like polenta are easier to digest than those from carrots or spinach. Carotenoids are vital for immune function, healthy cell growth, and night vision. And since carotenoids are easier to digest with fat, polenta and chicken sausage make an excellent pair. So eat up!
Chicken Sausage with Grapes and Polenta
Source: adapted from The Best Simple Recipes by America’s Test Kitchen
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds sweet or hot Italian chicken sausage
4 cups seedless red grapes
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
Parsley, for garnish
For the Polenta:
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup of polenta
3 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese (optional)
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Cook the sausages until browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes.
Transfer to a plate, and let cool for 5 minutes. Slice sausages on the diagonal. Cover with foil to keep warm.
While the sausages are cooling, it’s time to start the polenta. Start the chicken broth in a saucepan over medium-low heat. You’ll want it to work its way to a simmer while you continue with the sausages and grapes. If it reaches a simmer before you are ready for it, just turn it to low.
Add grapes and remaining oil, only if needed, to the empty skillet and cook until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the water and simmer, using the back of a spoon or tongs to crush some of the grapes, until the grapes have softened and the sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
While the grapes are simmering, go back to the polenta. Add the polenta to the simmering broth in a thin stream while stirring with a spoon over medium heat. Continue stirring for about 1 minute until the polenta starts to thicken and just begins to separate from the sides of the pan. Take the polenta off the heat and add the cheese (optional), stirring until combined.
Now add the sausages to the grapes, and simmer for a minute. Turn off the heat, and stir in the vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve over hot polenta, garnished with a little parsley. (Note: The longer polenta sits, the thicker it becomes. If it hasn’t reached your desired thickness, let it sit a minute more.)
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