Cast-iron pan-grilled cherry tomatoes and sausage

This recipe is a show-stopper. Bring a hot cast-iron pan to the table with smoky sausage bathing in bubbling tomato juice, and watch as your friends regard you as someone with mystical powers. They don't need to know that this is a ridiculously simple recipe, and one that can be interpreted in many ways. The sausage can be changed, the tomatoes can be any variety, and the herbs can be whatever you have on hand (as long as they're fresh). I normally serve the finished product of cooked sausage and stewed tomatoes over a thick slice of toasted country bread to catch the tomato/sausage liquor that is fortified with oregano and rosemary. You can also use polenta, rice or mashed potatoes as a base. You can also cook this inside, starting on the stovetop and then moving the pan to the oven once the tomatoes have popped. <P>

<b>Makes:</b> 8 servings <P>

3 pounds Polish or mild Italian sausage in one long link or two shorter links <P>

 Two pints of cherry tomatoes <P>

1 head of garlic, separated into cloves with the paper still on them <P>

2 large sprigs fresh oregano <P>

2 large sprigs fresh rosemary <P>

12 fresh bay leaves <P>

 extra virgin olive oil <P>

Line the bottom of a cast-iron pan with the cherry tomatoes. Dot the tomatoes with the unpeeled garlic cloves, spacing them evenly around the pan. Place the rosemary and oregano sprigs on top of the tomatoes so that they form a single layer. Wrap the sausage into a coil and place on top of the tomatoes, garlic and herbs. Tuck the bay leaves into the sausage coil at equal intervals, making sure that a bit flares out of the top for visual appeal. Anoint the sausage with a few large glugs of olive oil. Place onto a hot grill and cook over hot coals or high heat until the tomatoes start to burst. Move off direct heat and cover the grill, baking the sausage for 30 minutes (400 degrees if you're using an oven). If you would like to smoke this dish, you should add smoke in the last 10 minutes. Move the pan off the heat and let it sit for 10 more minutes before cutting into it. Serve a chunk of the sausage, tomatoes, juice and garlic over your base of choice (bread, rice, polenta or mashed potatoes). To eat the garlic, set it aside to let it cool enough to touch it and squeeze the soft garlic out onto your plate. <P>

<b>Tip:</b> Add a soft-boiled egg to this dish to blast it into the stratosphere. <P>

( Photo and styling by John Houser III, Special to The Baltimore Sun / July 11, 2012 )

This recipe is a show-stopper. Bring a hot cast-iron pan to the table with smoky sausage bathing in bubbling tomato juice, and watch as your friends regard you as someone with mystical powers. They don't need to know that this is a ridiculously simple recipe, and one that can be interpreted in many ways. The sausage can be changed, the tomatoes can be any variety, and the herbs can be whatever you have on hand (as long as they're fresh). I normally serve the finished product of cooked sausage and stewed tomatoes over a thick slice of toasted country bread to catch the tomato/sausage liquor that is fortified with oregano and rosemary. You can also use polenta, rice or mashed potatoes as a base. You can also cook this inside, starting on the stovetop and then moving the pan to the oven once the tomatoes have popped.

Makes: 8 servings

3 pounds Polish or mild Italian sausage in one long link or two shorter links

Two pints of cherry tomatoes

1 head of garlic, separated into cloves with the paper still on them

2 large sprigs fresh oregano

2 large sprigs fresh rosemary

12 fresh bay leaves

extra virgin olive oil

Line the bottom of a cast-iron pan with the cherry tomatoes. Dot the tomatoes with the unpeeled garlic cloves, spacing them evenly around the pan. Place the rosemary and oregano sprigs on top of the tomatoes so that they form a single layer. Wrap the sausage into a coil and place on top of the tomatoes, garlic and herbs. Tuck the bay leaves into the sausage coil at equal intervals, making sure that a bit flares out of the top for visual appeal. Anoint the sausage with a few large glugs of olive oil. Place onto a hot grill and cook over hot coals or high heat until the tomatoes start to burst. Move off direct heat and cover the grill, baking the sausage for 30 minutes (400 degrees if you're using an oven). If you would like to smoke this dish, you should add smoke in the last 10 minutes. Move the pan off the heat and let it sit for 10 more minutes before cutting into it. Serve a chunk of the sausage, tomatoes, juice and garlic over your base of choice (bread, rice, polenta or mashed potatoes). To eat the garlic, set it aside to let it cool enough to touch it and squeeze the soft garlic out onto your plate.

Tip: Add a soft-boiled egg to this dish to blast it into the stratosphere.

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