When I first started accumulating my tailgating provisions, I found the second best place in the store, the first being the beer aisle, for me was the camping section. Why the camping section you ask? Well that’s where all the gear for living outdoors is at. After all, are tailgating and camping really all that different? Both are outdoor activities, both typically involve being away from the comforts of home, and both usually involve indulging on plenty of food and drink. Some NASCAR events have “camping” prior to the race which is nothing more than tailgating overnight. If you ask me they are cut from the same cloth. So why do I draw this comparison between tailgating and camping? Well as you might have guessed by the Johnsonville logo featured prominently in the post it has something to do with sausage. Specifically pre-cooked sausage.
Good food safety practices involve lots of things. Proper refrigeration, cooking food to safe temps, and avoiding cross contamination with raw meat juices are all things that pretty much anyone who has ever learned anything about cooking knows. Coolers are the obvious solution to the refrigeration conundrum. A good quality cooler with plenty of ice is a no brainer. Cooking food to safe temps is also easy to avoid most of the time, especially if you have a good quality instant read thermometer with you. That is something I recommend for everyone cooking raw meat, its the best way to stay safe, and to not grossly overcook your food.
The problem that isn’t so easy to pin down is cross contamination, especially in the remote settings that tailgaters and campers alike share. Sure some people have full sinks and all that in their RV, but for many of us we’re faced with the makings of a bacterial breeding ground. I have cooked plenty of raw meat at tailgates, it can be done without a doubt, but you know I wonder how many times I touched raw meat and then spread any potential germs to other things. I haven’t gotten sick, but I may have just gotten lucky so far. This is where the pre-cooked sausage comes in. By removing those raw meat juices we greatly reduce the chance of foodborn illness. That way you can worry about staying away from the hangover and not if you’re going to wind up with food poisoning.
We’ve talked about some of Johnsonville’s pre-cooked offerings before, and we’ve never been let down by any of them. Now while with one notable and extremely tasty exception, we’ve basically treated all of these products as a sausage in a bun type of thing, part of this article is show that these are versatile products that can work in other applications.
Disclosure: Johnsonville gave us coupons and a gift card to try these products and do some recipe development.
So how can you use these pre-cooked offerings at your next away from home trip? The first is obvious, use them just as you would any other brat or sausage from Johnsonville. Grill it, put it in a bun, top it, and scarf. If you are a brat fanatic, you might focus your attention on the Stadium Style Brats. They deliver a near identical flavor profile to the standard Johnsonville Brat, and since they’re slightly smaller and more uniform you can fit many more on your grill. Another upside is that you get 6 in a pack compared to 5 come in the normal pack, which means you can get more pieces in the cooler. Not to mention they are usually less expensive! I have a small Weber Smokey Joe Gold in this photo and you can see it holds plenty of sausages for a crowd. Plus since we’re dealing with pre-cooked we can heat through to at least 140 degrees and serve. There is no need to get to 160. In fact the recommended cooking time is basically half of the uncooked brats. If you often have trouble keeping up with demand these are the answer.
The next is a great dish for tailgaters and campers alike. The idea of this dish is a staple in many cultures. Rice and Beans. We decided to utilize the Andouille Split Rope Links to make a Louisiana-esque Red Beans and Rice. Upside to this dish is using only one pot. Why one pot? Fewer dishes to clean, and all the flavor stays in one place, no worrying about it being split over multiple vessels. Using instant rice and canned beans we can knock this out in 30 minutes. While cook time is always a concern, running a cooker/grill/stove for long periods of time with limited amounts of fuel is something that should be considered whether in the woods or parking lot. Pot selection isn’t supremely important here, but I am a big fan of cast iron dutch ovens. They are super versatile and can take a fair amount of abuse. You can double the recipe if you have a pot of sufficient size, at least 6 qts.
Red Beans and Rice with Spicy Johnsonville Sausage
Serves: Serves 4-6
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 package Johnsonville Andouille Split Rope (2 links) or New Orleans Spicy Smoked Links (6 links), sliced into ¼ inch pieces
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 green pepper, seeded and finely chopped
- 1 rib celery, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 2 16oz cans red beans or kidney beans, drained
- 2 cups of instant rice (Minute Rice)
- Creole Seasoning
- Add the vegetable oil to a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add sausage and cook until browned on one side. 3-4 minutes.
- Add onion, green pepper, and celery, cook until onions translucent, 6-8 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute, and sprinkle with seasoning blend.
- Add the broth and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the beans and rice. Turn off heat and cover.
- Before serving taste and add more seasoning as necessary.
Another great option is something called a Hobo Pack. Now many of you who were in scouting are probably familiar with this concept. The idea is that you wrap things you want to cook in foil and then place it on the fire, coals, grill, etc. The upside is that after heating let them cool off a bit and you can eat directly from the packet so no plates! You can use this method for just about anything you want, but I think the Polish Kielbasa Split Rope with potato and onion hits the spot quite nicely. Also what we’re doing to save some time is pre-cooking the potato since they really have to be cooked thoroughly to be appetizing. You can leave the potato uncooked if you’d prefer, but keep in mind that will increase cooking time substantially.
Johnsonville Polish Sausage and Potato Hobo Pack
- 1 package (2 links) Johnsonville Polish Kielbasa Split Rope, sliced into ¼” slices
- 2 lbs red potatoes cleaned
- 1 each sweet red and yellow peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 4 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- ½ garlic powder
- Quarter potatoes by slicing in half, and then each half in half again. Smaller potatoes may only need to be sliced in half. Place pieces in bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap
- Microwave potatoes for 5- 8 minutes until potatoes are mostly cooked. Shake halfway throughout. After cooking carefully remove plastic wrap and drain.
- Toss all ingredients in bowl.
- Divide the kielbasa, potatoes, peppers and onion among six double thicknesses of heavy-duty foil (about 18 in. x 12 in.). Seal edges of foil tightly to form packet. Refrigerate until ready to cook.
- Place “hobo pack” on grill, over direct heat for 10-15 minutes, turning several times throughout, until packets are sizzling. Let cool for a minute or so before serving. Be careful when opening packet.
It is worth mentioning that the Split Rope sausages come packaged with 2 links, but each link is in it’s own pack. So if you only wanted to use one you can just open that, the other remains sealed in it’s own packaging. Also worth noting, is that many other packages of smoked/cooked links come in resealable zipper packaging. So if you are out and about and only use a couple out of a package you can seal them back up and use them at a later time without worrying about them becoming water logged from sitting in the cooler. Those are little things, but no one likes to waste food, and ultimately money if they don’t have to.
To summarize, whether it’s tailgating, camping, or cooking outdoors for any other reason give the pre-cooked line a look for several reasons. Faster “cooking” time due to the need to heat not cook, no raw meat to cross contaminate, and a wide range of flavors and styles for versatility.
To learn more about where you can find Johnsonville’s extensive pre-cooked product line you can visit their product locator link. The product line is so expansive that I can’t imagine any one store will carry them all, in fact for this article I had to journey to a couple stores. While you’re there you can see all the offerings, and take a peek at Johnsonville’s very large recipe database. Oh and why not enter their camping contest? Could win some cool prizes!