This menu is quintessentially American: the soup is Spanish, the sausages are from France and Italy, and the accompaniments are from New England and Texas. Nowhere else in the world would such an ethnic mix be taken for granted and, what is more, cooked out of doors.
Equally characteristic is the Americanization of the dishes themselves. The chilled gazpacho, a pure'e of tomato, cucumber and green pepper, is flavored with mint as well as the traditional garlic, vinegar and olive oil. The white boudin sausages of finely ground chicken and pork are seasoned with allspice, a berry almost unknown in France, where a four-spice mixture of pepper, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon is used. The Italian-style fresh pepper sausage has cumin as a background flavor instead of the more usual Italian fennel or anise. Even the fried apples are spiced with cinnamon and the potatoes with chili.
Preparation is made easy with electric equipment. In fact, I'd hate to try gazpacho without a food processor or blender, nor would I care to tackle sausages without the stuffing attachment supplied with most electric grinders. More difficult can be sausage casings -- even in the Nation's Capital the minimum order seems to be one pound, which unravels to over 30 yards. In such circumstances, I'd suggest you forget casings altogether and shape the mixture into patties (ovals are less likely to be mistaken for hamburger). Sausages may look more classic, but the flavor is the same.
The final Amercan touch is the barbecue grill, with its inimitable flavor of hickory charcoal, or mesquite if you wish to be in vogue. In the words of the late James Beard, the grand old man of American cuisine, "The taste of outdoors lends a wonderful air of festivity and well-being to a meal." And the Labor Day holiday might just as well be the weekend to enjoy it. Timetable
With today's machines, the advance preparation of gazpacho is a matter of minutes. Sausages admittedly take time, but they can be made two days ahead, ready to cook on the grill together with accompaniments.
Up to 2 days ahead: Make and poach chicken sausages and refrigerate. Make country sausages and refrigerate.
Up to 1 day ahead: Make gazpacho and keep with garnish in refrigerator. Fry apple slices and refrigerate in baking dish. Cook potatoes, peel, cut up and refrigerate.
1 hour before serving: Light the barbecue. Set the table.
30 minutes before serving: Heat oven to 350 degrees if using to reheat apples.
15 minutes before serving: Heat broiler if using for sausages. Reheat apple slices. Fry potatoes.
10 minutes before serving: Grill or broil chicken sausages. Prick and broil pork sausages.
Just before serving: Thin gazpacho, spoon into bowls, and set tomato and mint sprig on top. GAZPACHO WITH MINT (8 servings)
The quality of this soup depends on fresh, vine-ripe tomatoes.
2 pounds tomatoes, peeled and seeded
1 bunch fresh mint
1/4 cup wine vinegar
2 slices white bread, diced, with crusts discarded
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut in pieces
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut in pieces
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
Pinch of sugar
1 cup cold water, more if needed
Finely chop 1/2 cup of the tomatoes and reserve for garnish. Reserving 8 sprigs, strip enough mint leaves from stems to measure 1/4 cup. Pour vinegar over bread and leave to soak.
In a food processor or blender, pure'e tomatoes, pepper, cucumber, garlic, bread mixture, olive oil, salt, pepper and sugar, working in several batches so pure'e is as fine as possible. Add mint leaves to last batch and pure'e quickly so it is just chopped.
Combine pure'e in a large bowl, stir until thoroughly mixed and taste, adding more salt, pepper or sugar as needed. Chill gazpacho at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours. Keep garnish in refrigerator. Just before serving, stir cold water into soup to thin it to the consistency of whipping cream. Spoon into bowls and set a spoonful of chopped tomato and a mint sprig on each one. WHITE CHICKEN AND PORK SAUSAGES (8 servings as part of this menu, 4 to 6 servings alone)
For a more meaty sausage, substitute veal for the chicken.
2 ounces large sausage casings
1 cup half-and-half
3 slices white bread, diced, with crusts discarded
1 tablespoon lard or oil
2 onions, sliced
1/2 pound boneless chicken breast, cut in pieces
1/2 pound pork (shoulder or loin, with some fat), cut in pieces
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 quarts water
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
Bouquet garni (2 sprigs thyme, 1 bay leaf and 12 parsley stalks)
1 teaspoon peppercorns
Prepare sausage casings according to package instructions. In a small saucepan combine half-and-half and bread. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture is thick enough to come away cleanly from sides of pan; let it cool. In a heavy pan heat lard or oil and cook onions over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until very soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Note: Do not allow them to brown.
If using grinder with sausage attachments, work soaked bread, half-and-half, onions, chicken and pork twice through fine blade into a bowl. Beat in eggs, allspice, salt and pepper. Fry a small piece of mixture in a pan and taste for seasoning. Work mixture through grinder into casings. Knot ends and tie sausages in lengths. Note: Do not fill casings too tightly. Prick sausages thoroughly.
As an alternative, pure'e ingredients in food processor and season mixture to taste. Fill into sausage casings using a funnel. If sausage casings are not available, shape mixture into 2-inch oval patties about 3/4-inch thick.
Lay sausages or patties in a wide shallow pan. Bring water, onion, carrot, celery, bouquet garni, peppercorns and salt to a boil and simmer 5 minutes. Pour mixture over sausage or patties and poach just below boiling point 20 to 25 minutes. Note: if water boils, sausages will burst and patties break up. Leave to cool in liquid, then drain. They can be made up to 48 hours ahead and kept covered in refrigerator.
To finish, heat broiler or light barbecue. Brush rack with oil. Broil sausages or patties over medium heat until brown, 3 to 4 minutes on each side. PEPPERED COUNTRY SAUSAGE (8 servings as part of this menu; 4 to 6 servings alone)
For a mild sausage, omit the dried red pepper.
2 ounces small sausage casings
1 1/2 pounds lean pork (loin or shoulder), cut in pieces
1/2 pound fresh pork fat, cut in pieces
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon crushed dried red pepper
1 teaspoon cumin seed
Oil for brushing rack
Prepare sausage casings according to package instructions. In a bowl mix lean and fat pork with water, salt, allspice, red pepper and cumin.
If using grinder with sausage attachment, work mixture through grinder, using coarse blade for a textured sausage and fine blade for a smoother one. Fry a small piece of mixture in a pan and taste for seasoning. Work mixture through grinder into casings. Knot ends and tie sausages into lengths with string.
Alternatively, work mixture briefly in a food processor until roughly chopped, and test seasoning. Fill into sausage casings using a funnel. If sausage casings are not available, shape mixture into 2 1/2-inch patties about 3/4-inch thick. Sausages can be made up to 48 hours ahead and kept, covered, in refrigerator.
To finish, heat broiler or light barbecue. Brush rack with oil. Prick sausages, then broil over medium heat until very brown and no longer pink in the center, 3 to 4 minutes on each side. CHILI HASH BROWNS (8 servings)
For a European version, replace chili pepper with garlic, adding it with the potatoes.
8 medium potatoes, washed
3 to 4 tablespoons lard or oil
3 onions, sliced
2 mild or 1 hot chili pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Put potatoes in a large pan of cold salted water, cover and simmer until tender when pierced with a knife, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain potatoes, let cool slightly, then peel them and cut in large chunks. Potatoes can be cooked up to 24 hours ahead and refrigerated.
To finish: in 2 large frying pans, heat oil and fry onion and chili until soft but not brown. Add potatoes, sprinkle with salt and pepper and fry briskly, tossing often or turning with a spatula, until potatoes are very brown and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. They can also be cooked on the barbecue. FRIED APPLE SLICES (8 servings)
Wonderful with pork and duck as well as sausages.
3 to 4 tablespoons butter
8 tart apples, cored and thickly sliced
2 to 3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
In a frying pan, preferably with a nonstick finish, melt a tablespoon of butter. Add some apples slices so all touch bottom of pan, sprinkle lightly with sugar, and turn them. Fry briskly until browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle with cinnamon and more sugar, turn and brown other side.
Remove apples and fry the rest, using more butter and sugar as necessary. Apples can be fried up to 24 hours ahead. Pile them in a heatproof baking dish and store in refrigerator.
To reheat apples, bake uncovered in a 350-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes or heat them on the barbecue rack until very hot.