Sausage City: Markethouse Restaurant's Sausage Menu for Home Cooks
This past weekend, Markethouse Restaurant in Streeterville launched a unique charcuterie program, one specifically designed for home cooks. Blurring the line between restaurant and butcher, the take-home menu is based mostly around sausages (there are also bacons, pates, and mustards), which got me excited. Chef Scott Walton has always maintained a quality charcuterie program at Markethouse (as well as a very cool rooftop garden where he grows produce for the restaurant) so I was very curious to try out what he had to offer.
The program can be approached two different ways: you can pick up some of Walton's own specialty sausages, or you can place custom orders, mixing and matching types of meat and spices, to be picked up at the restaurant (requiring 48 hours notice). The custom program is pretty intriguing, especially for a party, but this time I walked out with two varieties: a pork-and-veal bratwurst, done in the Wisconsin style, and a hot Italian sausage.
They come vacuum sealed for easy freezing, but I wasted no time in cutting open the package and frying them up, with my favorite indoor cooking method. The sausages are first cooked in pan filled with 1/2 inch of water. Once the water evaporates, a tablespoon of butter is added to finish things off. The steam cooks the sausage, and the butter helps crisp up the skin.
As I expected, these are superb sausages, with the attention to detail you'd expect of a chef handmaking a product destined for a restaurant plate. The bratwurst ($7.95/lb), made with nutmeg, braised mustard seeds, parsley, and smoked applewood sea salt, was richly flavored and juicy. The spicy Italian sausage ($6.50/lb), with basil, fennel, and garlic, was even better.
As you might have seen in the recent Sausage City post about Rob Leavitt's sausage-making demo at the Good Food Festival, there are a number of techniques that are important with sausage making, the most crucial being proper mixing of the meat to the point of stickiness, which ensures a juicy texture by helping the mixture trap water. The sausages I picked up from Markethouse were some of the most exceptionally juicy sausages I've cooked in a long time, definitely beating out anything from the grocery store, and in the same class as those found at Butcher & Larder or Publican Quality Meats. Considering he is working with local farms such as Slagel Family and Maple Leaf, the quality is indisputably among the best possible, and the technique is spot-on.
Chef Walton explains that he's "excited to be serving in the role of neighborhood butcher," and I like that way of thinking. Judging from what I picked up and cooked, the Markethouse program deserves to be considered among the best quality "butcher shops" in the city.