Sausage sunflower tutorial & lunch
Today we have more hot dog tricks, with little “sunflowers” made out of halved sausages and quail eggs (a step-by-step tutorial follows). I figured as long as I had all kinds of sausages and hot dogs leftover from my octodog tutorial, I might as well explore other things to do with them besides putting them in curry, kimchi fried rice or making little rabbits. You could also make these with vegetarian tofu dogs, chicken- or turkey-based sausages or hot dogs. I don’t know that these’ll make it into my daily repertoire (um, lazy, remember?), but my three-year-old did get a kick out of them. If you’re into food art, you could take this a step beyond and use other food to sculpt the whole flower and scenery, but this is about my limit. (See my new page on Decorative Food.)
Contents of preschooler lunch: Cornbread mini muffins, crab apple, hot dog sunflowers with fried quail egg (tutorial below), blueberries, cucumber slices, and cheese cubes.
Morning prep time: 10 minutes, using frozen mini muffins made with a mix. In the morning I made the hot dog sunflowers and packed the still-frozen muffins to defrost naturally in the bento lunch. (Read on for lunch details and the hot dog sunflower tutorial.)
Packing: I stacked two of the cooled hot dog sunflowers on top of each other, and crammed in a few blueberries and cheese cubes to act as gap fillers to stabilize the lunch in transit. My unnecessary garnish: the lettuce leaf under the crab apple to provide a little color contrast instead of showing the bare bottom of the bento box. The lunch is packed in a 350ml Geki Rangers bento box with one subcontainer removed to accommodate the mini muffins.
Verdict: The sausage flower needs ketchup, which I didn’t pack. Three-year-old Bug ate the mini muffins, one sausage flower, the cheese cubes and the blueberries at preschool. After school, he decided he didn’t like the cucumber and the crab apple after a bite of each, and asked to eat the last sausage flower at home with ketchup (which he did).
How to Make a Hot Dog Sunflower
First off, you’ll need a fresh quail egg or two, often sold in Asian markets in the egg or refrigerated produce section (I pay US$1 for 10 quail eggs at pan-Asian markets in San Francisco). People often accidentally break the yolk when cracking open the small eggs, but you can avoid this by carefully using a sharp knife or egg scissors to lop off the top of the egg. Set the opened eggs back into their carton for easy access while cooking. (Click on any photo for a larger view.)
Here I’m using a 4-inch-long Japanese arabiki pork sausage (coarse ground) with natural casing, but you could use longer hot dogs or sausages if you trim them to 4-5 inches long. Split the sausage in half lengthwise.
Speed Tip: Put the halved sausage in between two chopsticks on a cutting board, and use a sharp knife to make evenly spaced cuts down the full length of the sausage. The chopsticks keep you from cutting all the way through the sausage, and allow you to cut both of the sausage halves at the same time.
Fasten the ends of the sausage together with a toothpick or short piece of uncooked spaghetti (don’t worry, you’ll be removing these before packing). You can cut off the rounded ends of the sausage for a rounder circle, if you like.
Heat a nonstick pan over low heat and grease the pan with butter, vegetable oil, or cooking spray. Briefly brown the top side of the sausage rings until they develop nice color, then turn them over so the flat side is down. Crack a quail egg into the middle of each sausage ring and fry as you would a regular fried egg (salt if you like). I like to add a tablespoon or two of water to the pan and cover it, allowing the steam to cook the top of the egg without flipping. (FOOD SAFETY NOTE: Raw egg yolks can be unsafe at room temperature; heat eggs through for optimum food safety.)
When done, remove from the pan and let cool (I use a mini cooling rack). Remove the toothpick or piece of uncooked pasta that fastened the sausage ends — the fried quail egg will now hold the sausage ring together without assistance. You may want to tidy up the “flowers” by picking off stray egg white on the bottom that has spread beyond the sausage. Serve or pack in a lunch with a little container of ketchup.