The Jersey Shore
When I see a dish of sausage and peppers I immediately think of Italian feasts like the San Genaro Festival in Little Italy. Or summer nights on the board walk down the shore at Point Pleasant or Seaside Heights.
Being a Brooklyn boy we usually went to Manhattan Beach, Coney Island, Reis Park, or Jones Beach on Long Island. My connection to the Jersey Shore was through my Aunt Phyllis and Uncle Sal who lived in Paterson, New Jersey. They had a summer-house in Brick Township on Sandy Point Drive. I spent many summers down the Jersey shore with my family at my aunt and uncles summer-house.
The house was a modest ranch in a seaside community surrounded by lagoons with boats tied to the docks and a private beach right on the Metedeconk River. The beach had calm waters that we could play in safely with my cousins Patti and Johnny as our parents sat not far in their beach chairs discussing the days events. On some occasions we would venture over the Mantoloking Bridge, to the ocean side ,where my Godfather Joe would be staying at his house right on the ocean.
It was down the shore where I learned how to crab. We had a crab net that was about 3 feet high by about 7 feet long. The top of the net had floats attached and the bottom had weights and on each end was a pole about the size of a broom stick. It would take two people to work the net. We would walk out on the sand bar and when we got deep enough we would spread the net out, one person on each end holding the poles. We would face the beach and begin walking towards it, scraping the poles against the sand bottom. The weights at the bottom would keep the net down as we scraped the sea floor gathering up whatever was below.
By the time we got to the beach, just before we hit dry land, you could start to see the dozens of crabs scurrying ahead of the net. At that point we quickened our pace to scoop them up before they escaped from either side. We caught dozens, enough to fill bushels. It was after that realization I started to go into those waters with shoes on.
And the meal we made in the evening with all those blue claw crabs was something to behold. Linguini with crab sauce never tasted better. On other days my father would take me fishing under the Mantoloking bridge where we would rent row boats. Back in the day as soon as you dropped your line in the water you were hooking blow fish. One after the other. They were good eating, like chicken legs. Floured and fried and topped with fried onions and vinegar.
And it was at my aunt’s house where I had my first experience with an outdoor shower. There was nothing better than returning from a day at the beach and sticking your head under that shower as the cool fresh water cleaned off the sand. You almost didn’t want to dry off.
One year we had three families stay at my aunt’s house. My Aunt Rose and Uncle Aldo came with their four children, Gail, Gary, Glen and Greg. I was there with my family and my Aunt Phyllis and Uncle Sal were there with their two children, Patti and Johnny. Oh, I almost forgot Carmen. That was my Uncle Sal’s brother. He actually owned the house. In all we were fifteen people staying in a three bedroom ranch with one and a half bath. Nobody cared, we were down the Shore. Poor Carmen couldn’t even sleep in his own house that week. The poor guy had to go across the street to his neighbor Charlie to find an empty bed.
People were sleeping every where. Two to a bed, sofas, a branda (that was a portable fold up bed), coffee tables, kitchen tables. Where ever there was an empty spot you placed your blanket and pillow. And breakfast in the morning was an assembly line. Pounds of bacon frying up. Dozens of eggs. We had to eat in shifts. The children were first of course. You spent the entire day at the beach, walk back to the house for lunch, which was also in shifts, then back to the beach.
Once everyone got showered and cleaned we were off to the boardwalk at Point Pleasant. Even though we had a good meal at the house there was always room for hot dogs, sausage and pepper sandwiches and of course, ice cream. You had to end the day at the shore with ice cream…Kohr’s frozen custard….the orange twist was my favorite!
So, now that I got you in the mood for a great sausage and pepper sandwich, here is how to make it.
This is an easy dish to prepare. The secret ingredient my grandmother used in order to give the potatoes and vegetables an added flavor was a hint of wine vinegar. The quality of the sausages also make a difference. I’m lucky enough to have a Shop Rite in my neighborhood that has store made Italian sausages. Their butcher must be Italian because they are delicious. They also have the sausages made with cheese and parsley, my favorite. Regular sweet or hot work just as well. If you can get a hold of good Italian sausages from your butcher or pork store your ahead of the game. I would stay away from the national brands, because they just don’t cut it.
- 3 medium potatoes, peel on and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 large onions, cut into 1 inch chunks
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- Salt & pepper to taste (a little under 1 tablespoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper)
- 1 pound Italian-style pork sausages (if you can get with cheese and parsley, all the better)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees
Spread the vegetables in a shallow roasting pan. Drizzle with the oil, vinegar and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir well. Make sure vegetables are in a single layer so they will all brown.
Roast the vegetables, stirring once or twice, for 40 minutes.
Pierce each sausage, if using links, in two or three places with a fork. Place the sausages on top of the vegetables. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn and bake another 15 minutes on other side, or until sausages are cooked through.
Serve hot with plenty of Italian bread.