What a surprise, to discover in a French cookbook a sausage dish so spicy and delicious that I'm going to make it over and over. You'll love it too, because it's easy, fun for company, and you can change it around as you please.
Its French name is Rougail Creole, and it is worlds apart from my vision of French cooking, which is creamy sauces, lots of butter, wine, complex stocks and expensive ingredients, well seasoned but mild.
The recipe is legitimately French, because it came from one of Loomis's friends in France. But its real source is Reunion Island, a French department in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa and east of Madagascar.
Reunion is tropical, with a cultural mix that includes Indians, Africans and Chinese. There, a rougail can be anything from a crushed mango or tomato salad to a main dish such as Loomis's sausage and rice.
To show how important rougail is, there are 19 versions in a Reunion Island cookbook, "Les Meilleures Recettes de la Cuisine Reunionnaise" (Times Editions), that I picked up in Singapore.
There, rougail was one of the dishes set out for lunch, along with mushrooms stuffed with Spanish chorizo, melon salad on shredded zucchini, lettuce with classic vinaigrette, braised broccoli, radishes on buttered bread sprinkled with French sea salt, and chocolate-lined raspberry tarts.
Loomis's recipe calls for fresh smoked pork or chicken sausages. Made that way at Melissa's (above), it wasn't highly spiced. My version was really zingy, because I used Mexican chorizo, not the greasy crumbly kind you get in supermarkets, but high quality chorizo from Marconda's meat shop in the Original Farmers Market in Los Angeles.
This type of chorizo can be sliced without falling apart, which is essential for the recipe. It simmers in tomato sauce along with onion, garlic, ginger, thyme sprigs, lime zest and a small hot chile, which is optional in case you don't like much heat.
This mixture goes over basmati rice colored bright yellow with turmeric. On the side you could serve Loomis's salad of mixed greens with classic vinaigrette and afterward one of the homey desserts from the book. The one that caught my eye is a quick lemon cake that, conveniently, is the next recipe after the sausage dish.
SAUSAGES WITH TOMATOES AND GOLDEN RICE
From "In a French Kitchen" by Susan Herrmann Loomis
For the Rice:
1 cup basmati rice, rinsed
2 cups water
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 fresh or dried bay leaf
For the Rougail:
1 pound fresh smoked pork or chicken sausages, preferably not lean, pierced with a skewer in several places
2 large onions, diced
2 large cloves garlic, green germ removed if present
1 (1/2-inch) round fresh ginger, peeled
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes
Zest of 1 lime, minced
10 sprigs fresh thyme
1 fresh or dried bay leaf
1 birds'-eye pepper or other hot pepper (optional)
Fresh herb sprigs, for garnish
To make the rice: place the rice grains in a medium saucepan. Add the water, turmeric, salt and bay leaf and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Reduce the heat so the water is boiling gently and cook uncovered until there are holes in the top of the rice and the water has evaporated below the surface of the rice.
Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and do not remove the cover. Let stand until you are ready to serve, at least 10 minutes.
To make the rougail: Brown the sausages on all sides in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium high heat, about 6 minutes. (If you are using lean sausages, you'll want to brown the sausages in a generous tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.) Remove the sausages from the pan and transfer them to a cutting board. Let them cool and then slice them.
Place the onions in the pan and cook, stirring, until they are golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, stir, then add the tomatoes with their juices and stir, breaking them up into large pieces as you stir.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the sausages, lime zest, thyme, bay leaf and hot pepper to the tomato mixture. Season with salt and pepper, stir, and cook until the mixture is boiling, then reduce the heat to medium. Cover and cook, stirring from time to time, until the sausages are cooked through and the sauce has thickened, 25 to 30 minutes.
Remove the herbs and the hot pepper from the rougail. Adjust the seasoning. To serve, divide the rice among four shallow soup bowls. Divide the rougail among the bowls, placing it atop the rice but leaving some rice to show. Garnish with the herbs, and serve immediately.
Makes 4 generous servings.