Sausage Stuffed Roasted Onion Shell over Saffron Scented Couscous
I saw a recipe about stuffing an onion "shell" on Facebook, and decided to recreate it in my own way. The original recipe (WISH I could tell you who actually created and wrote that FB recipe because it is AWEsome, so I do not know who to give official credit to here!) calls for stuffing the onion shell with beef and mushrooms and more, wrap it in bacon and grill it and add a delicious sauce to it. But, you know that mushrooms and I are unmixy things, like shellfish and I, so I tweaked it to meet my own palette. I did not wrap it in bacon (though that sounds awesome) nor did I BBQ it. I roasted it in the oven. Want to hear about my spicy, flavorful version of this delicious, simple recipe? Great! Thanks! Let's get to my starting line-up!
1 pound hot Italian sausage
1 large yellow onion
1/4 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped, plus 1 finely chopped, separated
fresh or dried herbs (I used a mix of sage, basil, oregano and thyme from my patio potted garden, which I finely chopped)
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1/3 cup fresh flat leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped
evoo, 2 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon separated
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed or ground cumin
1/2 cup + 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, separated
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 package Pearl Couscous (or your favorite)
1 pinch of saffron
1 pinch red pepper flakes
2 cups of water in small sauce pan
salt and pepper
In a small sauce pan over medium-low heat, add a pinch of saffron to the 2 cups of water. Steep the saffron low and slow. The water will begin to give off a most wonderful, rich aroma. I just love saffron, which is the dried stigma of crocus, a low growing bulbous plant. It is very expensive, so when I say a pinch, I really do mean just a pinch! Saffron is the epitome of "a little goes a long, long way"! This steeping process should take about fifteen minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375-degrees.
In a small skillet, add one generous tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil (evoo) over medium high heat. Add the chopped onion, garlic and fresh finely chopped (or dried) herbs) and saute about five minutes. Stir frequently so the garlic does not burn and brown. When the onion begins to turn translucent, remove the skillet from the heat and add the saute to a large bowl. Add the paprika, dry Italian seasoning, bread crumbs, cumin, half of the parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes and a little salt and pepper, as well as the sausage to the bowl. Using your hands, mix thoroughly to incorporate the ingredients to the sausage. Let the meat rest for a few minutes.
Time for the couscous! The sauce pan aroma should be making you crazy about now, it should smell so good! Remove the water from the sauce pan to a bowl. Try to fish out the saffron strands. Add two tablespoons of evoo to the small sauce pan over medium-high heat and when the oil ripples, add a tiny bit of the separated finely chopped garlic. Before it browns and becomes bitter, add the couscous to the sauce pan. Stir thoroughly to toast the couscous and add garlic flavor to the pearl pasta beads. Now, add a cup of the saffron scented water and bring it to a boil. Stir the couscous carefully so it does not stick to the sauce pan. When it comes to a boil, add the next cup. When it comes to a boil again, slightly cover the pan and reduce the heat to low. Allow it to steep and steam about fifteen minutes until the couscous pasta has absorbed all of that saffron scented water and garlic flavors. No need to tend to it, the water does all of the work now.
Now, prep the onion shells. Slice off the top and bottom of the onion and peel just the one outer layer away. Take a sharp culinary knife and slice the onion from the center outward on just one side, like a radius of a circle. Separate the layers of the onion carefully and set the shells aside. Take a palm full of the sausage mixture and stuff the onion shells from the bottom up. The small shells will obviously use a smaller amount of the stuffing mixture. Place each shell in an onven-safe skillet drizzled with two tablespoons of evoo, or, if you are using two onions, doubling the recipe, you could use a muffin tin sprayed with non-stick spray. Place the skillet into the oven and bake for 35 minutes. No need to turn or flip. Just let it roast for 35 minutes. As the fatty sausage renders its fat, the onion will also shrink and engulf the shrinking meat stuffing.
While the onion shells are roasting, add the other part of the parmesan cheese and a quarter of the finely chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley to the couscous and stir to incorporate well. Again, let it sit off the heat and allow the flavors to marry.
Stuffed Onion Shells fresh and hot right out of the oven!
Once the roasting stuffed onions are done, remove the skillet or pan and allow them to rest a few minutes before handling. Allowing them to begin to cool allows them to "set". This makes moving them much easier. To plate, take a good cup or so of the couscous and place it on a plate and spread it to make a sort of a bed for the stuffed onion. After about four or five minutes, remove one of the stuffed onions and place it in the center of the couscous bed. Sprinkle some of the remaining finely chopped flat leaf Italian parsley atop the meal. I would add a drizzle of evoo around the couscous. Adds wonderful flavor and a bit more moisture to the already aromatically delicious couscous!
Alright. So I mentioned what I did not do, but instinctively realized I should have done, and that is to drizzle evoo around the perimeter of the couscous, maybe even some atop the stuffed onion. Better yet, I thought about in hindsight, I would infuse evoo with a crushed garlic clove and drizzle that, enhancing the flavor!
Now, here is what I did to the first dish. I wanted to add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar but, try as I might to add just a light drizzle, I ended up flooding the plate. Not a bad taste, but overwhelming. I think if I had added a controlled drizzle of balsamic, then a drizzle of garlic infused evoo around the balsamic, I would have had a winner! But alas, hindsight!!!
My balsamic flood. Live and Learn!
As always, Thank You for your readership! This entire recipe takes a little less than an hour to prep and cook. It is completely delicious, and the great thing is, you can create your own stuffing! Vegetable, rice and veg, any meat you want. The possibilities are just about endless. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did!
Now, GO COOK SOMETHING for someone you love!!!