I think it’s fair to say that Saturday morning breakfast is the most highly anticipated event of our family’s week.  There’s apt to be pancakes or waffles, bacon, slices of banana, handfuls of blueberries, a leisurely pot of coffee or hot chocolate, and lots and lots of maple syrup.  It’s not unusual for one of the kids to wake up on any given weekday morning and before even getting out of bed shout, “Is it pancake day?”  I’m proud of our breakfast feast.  It’s utterly lavish despite being entirely egg- and dairy product-free.  This week, I thought I’d try something new and cook some breakfast sausage.  But, as is often the case when feeding kids with food allergies, it was going to take a bit more work than just driving down to Trader Joe’s.

For the food-allergic consumer, what’s not written on food labels can be as frustrating as what is.  “Contains milk and soy.” (On a container of soy yogurt, of all things!  What is the point of dairy soy yogurt?)  “Processed on equipment shared with peanuts and tree nuts.”  (Chocolate, alas.)  Back on the shelf they go.  But when it comes to food allergies beyond the Top 8 — in our son’s case, mustard — things get a little trickier.  What exactly are the “spices” listed among the ingredients on package after package of sausage?  I could send an email to the manufacturer.  But Saturday morning waits for no customer service rep.

I don’t own a sausage grinder… yet.  But as it turns out, the food processor makes quick work of mincing boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  Add a grated apple, some chopped onion, and a handful of herbs, and 10 minutes later you’ve got a plateful of the freshest, most incredibly delicious chicken sausage you’ve ever eaten.  The cooked patties freeze beautifully and reheat quickly in the toaster oven, so go ahead, make a big batch — you’ll always be ready to answer the call, “Is it sausage morning?”

Chicken breakfast sausage with apple and herbs

Yield:  Serves about 8.

2 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped

1 small, sweet apple (I use macintosh), peeled and grated

1 garlic clove, minced

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into small chunks

1 tbsp. finely chopped, fresh sage leaves

2 tsp. finely chopped, fresh thyme leaves

1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Canola oil, for frying

Warm a small skillet over medium heat.  Drizzle in olive oil, then add onion and apple.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until apple juices have evaporated and onion and apple are soft and tender, about 8 minutes.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute more.  Set aside to cool.

While onion and apple cook, pulse chicken in a food processor to grind.  Be careful not to over-process: running the machine for 4-5 seconds, then scraping the bowl, then running it 4-5 seconds more should do it.   You want a chunky yet cohesive mixture.  Don’t turn it into a paste.

Transfer ground chicken to a large mixing bowl.  Add onion mixture, herbs, salt, and pepper and mix until evenly combined.

Heat a generous coating of canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  While oil heats, form chicken mixture into patties.  The mixture will be fairly loose — I roll golf-ball sized balls, flatten them gently, put them in the pan, then press them with my fingertips to form a patty.  Fry in batches until nicely browned and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.  Serve hot.

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