I almost always make these Breakfast Sausages when I have 2-3 recipes going at once, because while the prep work is minimal, they do involve a lot of waiting around: waiting around while the onions caramelize, waiting around while the sausages steam. That’s okay by me because they are totally worth it: savory, a teensy bit sweet from the caramelized onions and the maple syrup, and plenty of umami.
For Christmas morning, I make these a few days in advance so that they’re ready to go, and I can even fry them up in the same pan as the french toast, if I want!
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup yellow onion, sliced thinly into half-moons
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/2 cup cooked white beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon molasses (or more maple syrup)
1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/2-3/4 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Bring one tablespoon of olive oil to medium-low heat in a skillet and add the onions and garlic. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt, stir to coat, and cook, stirring every few minutes. They will begin to get golden after 10-15 minutes, but you want them to be really caramelized—a deep, dark brown—to bring out all those natural sugars. Let them go for 40 minutes or so if you can stand it. They should have reduced to about 1/4 cup.
In a food processor, process the caramelized onions, 1/2 cup water, white beans, and garlic just until the beans are broken down but still little chunky. If necessary, pulse rather than process to ensure that the mixture doesn’t get too smooth. Transfer the white bean and onion mixture to a medium bowl and add the other 1/2 cup of the water along with the olive oil, maple syrup, molasses, soy sauce, and liquid smoke, and stir to combine.
In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients, the vital wheat gluten through the cayenne pepper. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and use a wooden spoon or spatula to combine all the ingredients really well, then get your hands in there and massage the dough to develop the gluten. Gently knead for a couple of minutes before dividing up the dough.
If you want to make links: Divide the dough into 8-10 portions. Shape each portion into a log roughly 8″ long and 1″ in diameter.
If you want to make patties: Divide the dough into 2 portions. Shape each portion into a log roughly 6″ long and 3 1/2″ in diameter.
Place a portion at the bottom of a 12×12″ sheet of aluminum foil, and then loosely wrap up the log with the foil, twisting the ends but leaving about 1/2″ between the end of the log and where you make the twist. The sausages will plump when you steam them, and leaving that space will prevent them from “exploding.” Repeat with the remaining dough.
When you’ve rolled up all the sausages, steam them for 30 minutes (40 minutes for the patties), using either a steaming pot or a regular pot with a steamer basket inside.
After 30 minutes, take the sausages off the heat and allow them to cool. You can use them right away, but they have a better texture if you let them cool completely and then transfer them in the foil to the refrigerator to firm up overnight.
When you’re ready to serve the sausage, unwrap the sausage from the foil. For the patties, slice the log into patties at your desired thickness. Brown the sausages in a pan with a thin layer of olive or peanut oil. Serve warm.
Variation: Replace the onion with a thinly sliced fennel bulb. Reduce fennel seed to 1/2 teaspoon and add 1 tablespoon of chopped fennel fronds.