When it comes to food on Thanksgiving day, Shane and I go all out. It's not enough to eat a giant turkey dinner with sides as far as the eye can see. No, we also make an indulgent breakfast to chow on while we watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. It's been our tradition ever since we moved in together, and it's pretty much the only day of the year that we eat breakfast together. In years past, we've made bacon and eggs, and sometimes, toast. This year I had some of this homemade turkey breakfast sausage stashed in the freezer so it was added to the menu too. And no, that giant pile of sausage in the picture was not just for one person, I swear :)
We always buy ground turkey in bulk at our local warehouse club, but there's only so much taco mac, chili, meatloaf, and meatballs that I can eat before I start trying to figure out what else I can do with the ground turkey in my freezer. And that's where this turkey sausage came into the picture. Breakfast sausage is the only sausage I really enjoy (especially when it's sitting in a pool of maple syrup - yum!) so I was really intrigued by this recipe when I came upon it in one of my cookbooks. The ingredient list isn't terribly long, and aside from shaping the links, which took me a while to get the hang of, it comes together quickly. Plus, after you shape the links, you can stick them in your freezer for another day. Just defrost them in the fridge overnight before you want to cook them, and you can have homemade sausage on the table in minutes.
The method used in this recipe is pretty interesting - you brown about 1/4 of the ground turkey, and then combine that with the rest of the raw meat and seasonings before shaping the sausage. Those precooked bits provide both texture and flavor to the sausage links, which is important since we're using ground turkey as opposed to a richer, more flavorful meat. I'd cooked a few links weeks earlier for myself and enjoyed them, but Thanksgiving morning was Shane's first chance to try this sausage and he declared the recipe a winner too! As much as I enjoy bacon, I love that this sausage was less messy to cook, and healthier as well. I suspect it'll probably make next year's menu too :)
Homemade Turkey Breakfast Sausage
from America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 lb ground turkey
2 teaspoons minced fresh sage (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 1/2 slices sandwich bread, crusts removed and torn into small pieces
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch of ground nutmeg
Add 1 teaspoon of the oil to a 12-inch nonstick skillet and set over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add 1/4 lb of the ground turkey. Cook until well browned, about 6-8 minutes, breaking the turkey up with a wooden spoon as you cook. Add the sage and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer the meat to a heatproof bowl and allow to cool slightly.
In a shallow bowl, combine the bread and buttermilk, using a fork to mash them into a paste. Add this paste to the cooked turkey, along with the rest of the raw ground turkey, the maple syrup, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, cayenne and nutmeg. Mix gently until uniform. Divide the mixture into heaping 1 tablespoon portions and, using wet hands, form each into a 4-inch link.
(You can wrap the sausage links in plastic wrap and stick them in a resealable freezer bag for up to 1 month at this point. Thaw in the fridge before cooking.)
Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil to the skillet and set over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook until browned on all sides, about 8-10 minutes.
Makes about 16 sausage links