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Side Dish 

Local chefs provide their favorite uses for the newly glamorous sausage

Sausages are the ultimate phallic symbol, but their machismo was nearly their undoing. Shocked by the pagans' use of sausages in virility rituals, medieval Christians tried to banish the lewd talisman. Fortunately, the swaggering links survived the assault on their manhood. Now they've been named "Ingredient of the Year" by Bon Appétit magazine, and bad-boy chefs in St. Louis are using their kielbasas to create everything from stratas to stews. Bar Italia's Terry Rankin tosses penne pasta with sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil and roasted slices of duck sausage. Café Mira's chef Mike Johnson, who apprenticed at Emeril's in New Orleans, returned from the Crescent City with a recipe for Cajun andouille. "Instead of piping it into casings," he says, "we roast it and make a warm andouille vinaigrette. We pour that over spinach salad, with crunchy pecans, goat cheese, red onions, crispy sweet potatoes and cornbread croutons." Andouille makes a theatrical appearance at Crazy Fish in Clayton, where chef Willie Matthews makes andouille gravy to ladle over his bison meat loaf. "I slice the loaf into triangles, lean them against each other in a volcano shape and pour the sausage gravy down into the volcano and over the top," he explains. Chef Bernard de Coster, at Café Provençal, serves an entrée of couscous with merguez, a North African beef sausage flavored with harissa, a Tunisian chili paste. This exotic combination has become a favorite among the French, taking its place next to such classic dishes as cassoulet, which de Coster prepares with flageolet (white kidney beans), duck confit and Toulouse sausage, a coarse link made with pork, garlic, wine and spices. It's a small sausage, but after all, does size really matter?

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