When I recently compiled a list of some of the extraordinary and more unique hot dog and sausage options in central Arkansas, I was rather surprised by the comments left by a few of our readers. The challenge first came from my friend, cecil, who prodded me to try the sausages at Edward’s Food Giant at the Tanglewood Shopping Center off Cantrell in Little Rock. While many tend to view the term “store-bought” as a rather derogatory description, cecil promised these links to be made fresh, in-house by the meat department. I was intrigued. Further comments began to echo cecil’s recommendation, pouring out praise for the offerings of this unassuming grocery store meat market. I was sold, and on a recent night in which I was stuck at home on babysitting duty—the wife having decided to attend some sort of Bachelor finale party—I decided to swing by The Food Giant to snag a few links for dinner. After tucking the rugrats into bed, my solo sausage fest was on.
Firstly, I should comment on the fantastic bargain you’ll find in these sausages. At $2.50-$3 per lb, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better price for such substantial, plump links. Each sausage will run you approximately $0.80, making these a wonderful option for group grill-out sessions in which you need to feed a large number of hungry people on a tight budget. Keep this in mind as the doldrums of winter begin to surrender to the bright, heart-warming weather of spring and summer.
The Food Giant’s sausage selections vary slightly from day to day, typically offering six or seven types at a time. Options include a spicy Italian, sweet Italian, bratwurst, chorizo, chicken with cheese and peppers, jalepeno pork, and Polish—I selected a variety based on the butcher’s recommendations and took my spoils home wrapped up in thick, white butcher paper. While there are several options when preparing sausages and brats, I prefer to use a pan fry/oven roasting combination. I’ll drop them in a lightly oiled frying pan over medium heat and give them a nice sear on each side, leaving the centers mostly uncooked. Then I’ll toss them in a 350-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes until the sausages are just barely cooked through, juicy on the inside, with a taut, snappy casing on their exterior.
I was more than pleased with my selections. On quick visual inspection, it’s clear that these are quality, hand-made sausages. Each is wrapped in a delicate, thin, translucent natural casing, their ground, porky insides peeking through—the meats finely ground within. The Italian sausages are punctuated by oregano, basil, and fennel. The ‘sweet’ Italian is mildly enhanced with brown sugar, not in excess, but just enough to compliment the rich, herbaceous pork—the ‘spicy’ version is conversely enriched with crushed red pepper. Both are worth sampling, and would make excellent additions to sandwiches (with grilled peppers and onions), a hearty tomato sauce, or an Italian white bean soup.