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Published December 17, 2013, 12:10 PM

Lost Italian: With sweet apples and savory sausage this dish will be the star of your Christmas brunch

One of Giovanni’s favorite holiday traditions is our Christmas morning brunch, which we host for my parents, siblings and their families. A few years ago I decided to try a recipe for an apple sausage breakfast ring that my mom has made many times to great reviews.

By: Sarah and Tony Nasello, INFORUM

One of Giovanni’s favorite holiday traditions is our Christmas morning brunch, which we host for my parents, siblings and their families. A few years ago I decided to try a recipe for an apple sausage breakfast ring that my mom has made many times to great reviews.

Apple and sausage work so well together, and I thought this would be a great addition to our breakfast feast. Unfortunately, she couldn’t find her recipe, so I looked online until I found one that she thought was almost the same.

Sadly, “almost” just didn’t cut it. The sausage ring tasted good, but after waiting two hours for it to bake (twice the time stated in the recipe), our crowd was hungry enough to eat Styrofoam and be happy. Not to mention that our attempts to remove the sausage from its ring-shaped mold left Tony and me with a broken ring and broken spirits. We had no desire to make this dish ever again.

But, this season, I decided that we should give it one more chance. I tracked down the original recipe, which was first used in our family by my grandmother, Sunny Mathison, and came to me last week through my Aunt Margie.

I compared my family’s version to the one I’d used three years ago and found that, although the ingredients were the same, there were significant enough differences in measurements and directions to warrant another attempt.

The recipe I’d first used called for grated or shredded apple, which ended up producing quite a bit of extra moisture in the mixture. But my family’s version calls for “finely chopped apple,” which was much drier than when grated, as well as different amounts of milk and crackers. This version also directed me to remove the sausage ring from the mold before baking, whereas the former recipe had us baking the sausage directly in the ring.

For this attempt, I used one Pink Lady apple, peeled and finely chopped, and two pounds of Hornbacher’s own ground pork sausage. My mom uses saltines, but I chose instead to use Keebler Club crackers, which have a nice, buttery flavor.

Aside from being delicious and easy to make, I love that this dish can be prepared one to two days in advance and baked just before serving.

I used cooking spray to grease the mold before filling it with sausage, which worked great, but you could also use plastic wrap or wax paper. To remove the sausage ring from the mold, I gently inserted a rubber spatula between the sausage and the mold in three or four places along the side before (successfully) turning it out onto a baking sheet.

This time it took just a little over an hour to cook, and as it was baking Tony said, “This kitchen smells like I’m about to have the best breakfast ever.” We heaved a collective sigh of relief and did a little happy dance as we pulled the sausage ring from the oven golden brown, in one piece and looking delicious.

Our recipe recommends filling the center of the ring with scrambled eggs, but since neither Giovanni nor I care for them, I created a breakfast wreath by filling ours with fresh raspberries and lining the plate around it with sliced kiwi. This dish was a hit with both of my men, and will be featured once again on our Christmas brunch buffet. We hope you enjoy it, too.

Home with the Lost Italian is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello’s restaurant in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 9-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at dine@sarellos.com. All previous recipes can be found at http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com

Apple Sausage Breakfast Wreath

Ingredients

2 lbs. bulk sausage

1½ cups cracker crumbs

2 eggs, slightly beaten

½ cup milk

¼ cup minced onion

1 cup finely chopped apple, peeled (equal to about one apple)

Directions

Combine ingredients and mix thoroughly with a fork. Press lightly into a six-cup greased mold. Turn out in a shallow baking pan lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for about one hour, until golden brown. Drain off excess fat. Cool for 5 minutes, slice and serve.

Tips

  • The ring may be partially cooked the day before for 30 minutes.

  • Fill the center with fresh fruit or scrambled eggs. The original recipe said to add a little grated cheese to the eggs and sprinkle with paprika.

  • Garnish the plate with sliced kiwi or fresh fruit. The original recipe suggested broiled apricot halves and parsley to garnish.

  • Once cooked, the sausage ring can be frozen for up to 2 months. To serve, reheat in 300 degree oven or microwave until warmed through.

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