Sausage Buns with Fennel

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Ingredients

  • A knob of butter
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 smallish fennel bulb, cored and diced
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons red wine, vermouth, or water
  • 18 ounces (500 g) fresh pork sausages, preferably with fennel seeds
  • About ¾ cup (70 g) fresh breadcrumbs (made from day-old bread; otherwise use store-bought)
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed in a mortar, plus a little extra for sprinkling
  • ½ teaspoon caraway seeds, crushed in a mortar
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (17.3-ounce/490-g) box frozen puff pastry dough (2 sheets), thawed
  • 1 egg, beaten

Method

In my book Home Made Winter, I told you the story of how my mother, Mariëtte, would bake a whole batch of sausage buns at the beginning of each winter break. We would eat them throughout the holidays: for breakfast, as a snack, for lunch, a lazy dinner, or while lounging on the sofa, watching a Christmas movie on TV. Now, several years later, her recipe has traveled the globe, and people from all over have been sending me pictures of their own Christmas buns. I love it!

Now I’d like to add a new recipe to your repertoire. These sausage buns are really delicious as well—and easy to make, to boot—as long as you buy the right type of sausage. (I love a fennel seed, red wine sausage made by Dutch artisans Brandt & Levie, but you can find your own freshly made local variety.) Basically all you have to do is swaddle it in a blanket of dough.

In a large frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and fennel and fry, stirring now and then. After 5 minutes, pour in several tablespoons of the wine and continue cooking until tender, about 15 minutes, adding more liquid if needed to keep the vegetables from sticking. Remove from the heat and let cool somewhat on the counter.

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

Remove the casings from the sausages and crumble the meat in a mixing bowl. Combine the fried onion and fennel with the meat, add the bread-crumbs, fennel seeds, and caraway seeds. Knead together until homogenous. Season to taste with a couple pinches of salt and pepper if necessary, but be careful: The sausages themselves are already seasoned!

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Divide the sausage mixture into ten balls. Using your wet hands, shape them into sausage-sized logs (about 4½ inches/11 cm long). Set aside.

Roll out each sheet of puff pastry to an 11-inch (28-cm) square. Cut each into six rectangles (cut in half one way, then into thirds the other way). You’ll need ten rectangles total; set two rectangles aside for another use.

Place each sausage log in the center of a puff pastry rectangle, brush one long side of each dough rectangle with a bit of the beaten egg, and wrap the dough around the sausage, pinching the seam and ends together very securely—if these leak as they bake, the bottoms will get soggy, so take care to seal them well. Place on the prepared baking sheet, seams down. Brush the tops with more beaten egg and sprinkle with some fennel seeds. Bake for about 25 minutes, until nicely golden brown.

Once cooled and wrapped, you can store them in the fridge for the rest of your Christmas break (about a week), so why not make a whole lot of them?