Cheap Ass Monday: Down by the Boardwalk

Not actually on, near, under, or down by a boardwalk.

I’m going to tell you right now: this post? Is not really funny. Feel free to leave if that’s a problem, and we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming later this week.

As you can imagine, it’s been a bit of a rough weekend; I haven’t really felt like cooking, let alone photographing and describing my meals in detail. Funerals and their associated activities are always kinda rough, and I’m not nearly far enough in the mourning process for my own father not to have all that shit get dredged up, compounding things. Blargh.

I gotta tell you, the Orthodox Jews and their burial services? I to the N to the T-E-N-S-E. It’s so…biblical, with the actual rending of garments and the shoveling and the Hebrew and the phlegm. I’m emotionally drained just thinking about it.

No, THIS, isn’t the pork duh.

After an afternoon of going through old photos of me and my dad and getting weepy-eyed*, I needed something (1) tasty enough to entice me to eat it, (2) quick and easy enough to force myself to get up and make it, (3) that is not a bagel (Jewish mourning involves a LOT of bagels) and (4) cheap. And in my book, all of that points to one thing: pork.

In particular, sausage. I’m Italian and I grew up near the Jersey Shore, and that means that I have both genetic and environmental predispositions to sausage. I wanted the essence of a classic down-the-shore sausage sandwich, but without the enormous hoagie roll and with a smaller amount of sausage to keep costs and triglycerides down. So: sausage and pepper orzo.

*90% because of my dad, 10% because of all the TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE haircuts I’ve had over the years. Why did no one tell me?

THERE’S the sausage.

I never actually spent a lot of time at the beaches adjacent to Jersey’s boardwalks, because I was a nerdy, bookish, classical-music playing precocious yet freakishly tall dork and not a hot bikini babe with a penchant for airbrushed t-shirts and heinous tan lines. But the boardwalks were another story. Predictably, my mother hated them and their disgusting American foodstuffs. My dad and I? Boardwalk food fiends. Sometimes my dad and I would head to the (non-boardwalk, nature preserve) beach first, but more often we’d drive down nights just for the holy trinity of Jersey boardwalk eating: sausage and peppers, frozen custard and zeppole.

I know some people are partial to the fried clams and enormous, 28-inch pizzas. Not everyone can be right about everything, y’know? Plus, more zeppole for me.

The veg.

I admit that when I was younger, I was an incredibly picky eater. I NEVER got onions and peppers on my sausage sandwich, and would pick off the slightest particle found clinging to my sausage; I had the super-magnifying vision young children seem to have when it comes to shit like that. Frankly, had I been left to my own devices, I probably would have eaten nothing by zeppole, like the time I went to stay with my relatives in Italy one summer without my parents and absolutely refused to eat anything but gelato. (One day record: 8 cones.) (I was only 6. I’m pretty sure I could beat that today.)

Thank god I came around, because life without onions? Terrifying.

Yer classic throw-shit-in-a-pan meal.

I crumbled the sausage links before frying to extract more delicious sausage juice fat, in which I sauteed the peppers and onions. I wanted to add another layer of flavor and recalled that often, the pepper component of sausage and peppers is cooked with some vinegar for added bite, so I deglazed the pan with a splash of balsamic (white would be nice here but I only had regular, so that’s what I used). The vinegar added an ever-so-slight glaze to the veggies.

For 2 servings: One sweet sausage link, $1.68. One yellow onion, $0.66. One pepper, $1.74. One and a half cups of orzo, $0.53. Shaving of cheese: negligible. Grand total, $4.61, or $2.30 per person.

I tossed the slick, sausage-y mess with cooked orzo, heaped some into a bowl and shaved a little pecorino on top for salt. And even though I didn’t feel like eating and had fully planned to save my portion for lunch and lie to you all about how it tasted, I took one bite and ended up finishing the whole bowl. It was everything I’d wanted it to be – quick, cheap and tasty, sure, but also transporting and comforting. Fennel-laden sausage, sweet barely-caramelized peppers and onions bathed in pork fat, tart but not overpowering vinegar and occassional punches of salty cheese with just a little starch in each bite. Add some fresh lemonade and fried dough, and I could have been back in Seaside Heights trying to hit one of those fucking rubber frogs into the rotating lilypads to try and win a stuffed Deputy Dawg.

Now go call your fathers and tell them you love them. If you don’t have yours either, then go eat something the two of your enjoyed. If you don’t have either, or your dad kinda sucked, then make this. My dad was a good guy, I don’t think he’d mind sharing.

Sausage and Pepper Orzo
Do you really need a recipe? I’ll give it to you anyway. BTW, this is also good at room-temperature.

1 link sweet or hot Italian sausage
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut into half-moons
1 large bell pepper, any color, cored, seeded and sliced
1 1/2 c. orzo
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
s&p to taste and for the pasta water

Bring a pot of water to the boil. Add a few teaspoons of salt and the orzo. Cook according to package directions. Set aside.

Chop or break the sausage up into small chunks. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat and add the sausage. Fry until sausage is mostly browned and has released some fat, 4-5 minutes. Add the pepper and onion and saute until the veggies have started to color a little but are not completely limp. Pour the balsamic into the pan and scrape up any brown sausage-y bits sticking to the pan.

Dump the cooked orzo and sausage mixture into a large bowl. Toss to combine. Grate some parm or pecorino over the top, if you’d like.

0 thoughts on “Cheap Ass Monday: Down by the Boardwalk

  1. Just found your site a short time ago. SO sorry for your loss. Lost my father 16 years ago and will grill a pork steak this weekend in his honor, at your suggestion.

  2. Oh Michelle, I’m so sorry you’re having a bad time. It’s so hard to lose the people we love.

    My Dad took me to the Boardwalk a few times when I was little. We ate ourselves silly too!

    This is a great dish! Just the kind of thing I like to make. Sausage and peppers was one of my father’s favorites. I’m going to cook up a big bowl of this, pour a big glass of wine and toast my Dad while I eat it!

  3. Me & my dad had fried clams, so I’m glad we don’t have to fight that one out ;-) Glad to have you back, feel better and eat lots of sausage!

  4. Fry that shit up in a pan? NOW you’re speaking my language. I am making this for dinner tonight!

    Also, it should come as no surprise to you by now that Jewish milestones of every sort involve bagels. Except at Passover when we just substitute the bagels for matzo.

  5. *More hugs* Welcome back. Glad to see you’ve recovered from a rough weekend.

    I liked the juxtaposition of Orthodox Judaism and pork sausage. (What’s worse, being married to an Orthodox Jew, or being married to a reform Jew who could eat pork, but still won’t?)

    Love reading your childhood boardwalk stories. I love that kind of food. It took me a few years to appreciate the veggies on top of my sausage (although even today I’d just as soon go without). How about a link or two of sausage on a zeppole instead of a roll?

  6. I’m so sorry. I’m getting stupid and misty thinking about it, so I’ll shut up about that, now. I’m just sorry, okay?

    Which shore? We did the Ocean City beach most of the time. My grandparents lived on North Street for a while. We lived out by Philadelphia, though.

    *guilty* I was a huge cheapass floppy pizza girl. We never got the sausage because they’d kill my dad with the heartburn. That looks really tasty, though, I’ll try your deluxe home edition.

  7. Hey this post made me laugh a couple of times, so you helped with the funny quota. The dish looks great. Being Polish, I also have an affinity for sausage with vegetables, so it def speaks to me. I just don’t know what it would say, maybe something like ‘Yo dude, eat me and you’ll be happy now, but your car seats might not be afterwards’. Take care and feel better.

  8. Wow that food is cheap. $1.68 for a sausage link? I’ve forgotten how cheap food can be when you’re just at a regular grocery store (which is where I’m assuming you bought it…) orzo with sausage and a sauteed leafy green vegetable is one of my go to easy dinners. i will be cooking your variation as soon as peppers come in season…which i cannot wait for! take care.

  9. I want to take a bath in this. Before I get the calculator out, perhaps I’ll make some for supper.

    Hang in there and I hear ya on the haircut front.

  10. Sausage and peppers rock. I had a similar pepper-and-onion avoidance system when I was a (dumb) kid, so I savor them all the more now.

    As for the “call-your-dad” sentiments… my dad bailed when I was 3, so not so much with the calling. That said, I really do enjoy stories like yours — knowing that there were and are some fantastic dads out there warms even my shriveled cynical soul.

    Hope you and Brian are taking good care of each other during this tough time.

  11. So sorry about your dad… Just lost my grandmother in January, and I still get misty looking through old pics of us.

    FYI… I feel your pain about the bad haircuts. I had the ugliest uneven bowl cut when I was a kid. Makes me think my parents didn’t love me…

  12. My Dad would have loved this… He was a Sloppy Joe man and this has two of the key ingredients – grease and onions.

    …and now I’m sitting here crying.

    You take care of yourself

  13. It’s good to see you back, Michelle. And this looks great, as usual! Everything you make looks good. Except for that fried fish dangle, which still gives me chills when I think about it.

  14. It’s funny because my dad went into the hospital last week and my mom didn’t tell me until the day after he got out so I wouldn’t drop everything and drive up there. I was in hysterical tears about the fact that she hadn’t told me, all the “What ifs” going through my mind. It’s important to remember to constantly tell the ones we love how important they are to us.

  15. I’m glad you’re back and doing better. There is no accounting for childhood tastes, I hated onions, cooked tomatoes, bell peppers and mushrooms. Come to think of it, I don’t know how I ever ate pizza..what did I have on it?

  16. Even when you think you aren’t funny, you are. As someone who has the misfortune to know how you’re feeling, I am so sorry for your loss.

  17. My dad and I had peanut and Pepsi parties sitting down by the creek (drop the Lantz peanuts in the bottle and watch it foam up). It takes a long time to get even a little better and you never get over it completely but hang in there. Think about the good times you had and keep up the fantastic posts.

  18. When I look at old photo’s of me I too have extremely bad haircuts (and perms) and dress sense (the 80s!) and was also a wee bit fat and also the shortest in my family. I know how you feel.

    Fingers crossed things get easier for you. Looking forward to First Thursdays – I hope everyone has got their recipes ready!!!!

  19. I am so sorry to hear about your Dad. My father would have loved this recipe, too. After four years, the hole in my heart has healed around the edges, but hasn’t closed. I think it will probably be like that forever. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  20. I have been reading your blog for a few months now and I have never commented.

    I lost my father when I was two and I always wish I had some memory of him.

    Sometimes I feel silly being sad but maybe I will borrow your recipe sometime and have a night for him!

    Thank you for letting be a part of your life and food adventures.

  21. Sorry about your loss & your tough week. My thoughts are with you.

    I was the same way as a kid. My parents took me abroad, and I one day refused to drink milk ever again and chose a local delicacy that would be the ONLY thing I’d eat. Glad I’m not so crazy anymore. Those peppers & onions look delish.

  22. everyone, thanks. you are lovely and sweet and lovely.

    helen, i grew up in old bridge. for beaches, we usually drove down to island beach state park – still my favorite jersey beach – and then his the zeppole stands at seaside heights on the way back.

    carolyn, suck. you can borrow my memories anytime.

    elle, you HAD to bring that up? the week hasn’t been rough enough?

    WANF, heh, “touching in a TNS way.” that is, “not very touching at all.”

    tabitha, thanks for de-lurking! you couldn’t possibly have a less silly reason for being sad.

  23. I’m really sorry your Dad is gone. This post was such a nice tribute to your father. I think you can always tell what a great person someone was by the tenderness people feel for them in their absence. Your Dad must’ve been wonderful!

    …And I think this is a meal most Dads would love. I’m going to make it and think of my Dad.

  24. Nothing says “I’ve had enough of Orthodox funerals for a while, thanks” like a big bowl of pork. Oy, and the shoveling, and the rending, and the phlegm.

    My Dad is English, and lost his taste buds in WWII. My Mom was all about the food, though, so I think of her when I cook.

  25. Michelle

    No smart comments from me this time. I’m truly sorry to hear about your loss, and am amazed you are together enough to be blogging right now.

    Sounds like you have a great store of terrific memories, and I hope they help you get through over the next few days, weeks, months and years.

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