Back in Ohio, I had a lot of things. A house. A yard. Shrubbery. The whole kit and kaboodle. Sure, most people save downsizing til they’re empty-nesters, but me? Oh, no. I cut ties with three-quarters of my belongings at age 26, leaving behind my beloved hedging shears, lawn gnomes, and my beautiful propane grill (complete with double burners), and headed south. Since then, I’ve dreamed of the day I’d once again cook over an open flame, just me, my meat, and the great outdoors.
I spent the Memorial Day weekend at home in Ohio, and one morning I convinced my dad to teach me how to light a charcoal grill. As a soon-to-be-thirty, self-declared independent woman, I’m ashamed to publicly announce my ineptitude in this area. But standing in the backyard, listening to him explain the mechanics of the offset smoker while the flames licked at the mound of coals put a fire in my belly.
And when I returned home to Charlotte, this:
Even before I’d taken the grill out of the box, I invited a few friends over for sausage party. I stocked my fridge full of Johnsonville brats, opened up a bottle of wine, and got to assembling my new grill.
In retrospect, it probably would have been a good idea to give the ole grill a trial run. Nothing like going at it green with a crowd full of hungry bystanders. Though my dad had showed me how easy it was to light a charcoal grill using a charcoal chimney, I was overcome with a sudden confidence in the grilling aisle at Lowes, and when I picked up the chimney to put it in my cart, I thought, “oh, no, I got this,” and put the chimney right back on the shelf. Flash forward a few hours later, with the aforementioned starving bystanders, and me with nary a chimney, shred of newspaper, or drop of lighter fluid in sight.
An hour and one burnt thumb later, there was ash-covered charcoal… sort of.
Several mistakes were made this day, but I did do one thing right. Friends, ALWAYS have snacks on hand. The simple Johnsonville Andouille smoked sausage and caramelized onion pizza I threw together kept my friends from rioting while we faltered with the grill. This is sausage and onions done right. Classy, even.
And after two hours of “grilling” we FINALLY sat down and enjoyed some Johnsonville original brats plus some brat-stuffed jalapeno peppers. And you know what? It was fantastic. Even with all the flubs, as long as you don’t pierce the brat with a fork and leach it of its juices, that thing is sure to be delicious.
(As soon as everyone left, I logged onto Amazon and ordered a charcoal chimney.)
Andouille and Caramelized Onion Pizza
- 1 pound store-bought pizza dough
- 2 links Johnsonville Andouille Smoked Sausage, thinly sliced
- 1 cup caramelized onions (see the recipe I used here–or use raw, thinly sliced onions if you’re in a hurry)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- red pepper flakes
- 2 cups cheese blend of choice
Remove pizza dough from fridge, and let rest on the counter. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 475. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the Andouille. Cook, flipping occasionally, until the sausage is heated through and develops a dark golden color.
Lightly flour your work surface, and roll out the pizza dough to a 15 inch circle. Transfer to your pizza pan, and allow to rest 5 minutes. Brush dough with olive oil and garlic. Sprinkle on red pepper flakes, to taste. Top with cheese, sausage, and onions. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the cheese melted.
- 2 Johnsonville brats, casings removed
- 12 large jalapenos
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 cup Mexican cheese blend
Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the brats. Cook the meat while crumbling with a spatula, until evenly browned. Transfer meat to a paper towel lined plate to drain off the grease.
Meanwhile, slice the tops off the jalapenos. Use a small paring knife to remove the ribs and seeds, taking care not to puncture or tear the pepper.
Combine remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Add cooked meat, and stir to combine. Use a small spoon to stuff each jalapeno with the filling, mounding the filling at the top, then place the peppers vertically in a pepper stand. (Note: if you don’t have a pepper stand, you can use a foil baking pan–just cut pepper-sized holes in the bottom, and invert the pan.)
Place pepper stand on an area of the grill with indirect heat, cover the grill, and cook for 30 minutes, or until the peppers are soft.
(Note: if you are cooking the jalapenos in the oven, you can slice the peppers in half longways, and top each half with the filling.)
Disclaimer: I received compensation and free Johnsonville food products for this post. All thoughts, opinions, burnt thumbs, and grilling mishaps expressed herein are my own.