San Gennaro's Real Miracle: Sausage And Peppers On A Bun!
Now You Can Make The San Gennaro Treat At Home!
The veneration of St. Januarius (San Gennaro) in the Neapolitan area where he is considered the patron saint, borders on the hysterical. A saint of the Catholic Church, St. Januarius was martyred during the persecution of the Christians by the pagan Roman Emperor Diocletian. He was decapitated in 305 A.D. on a hillside overlooking the Neapolitan area port of Pozzuoli. According to the legend, his blood was sealed in two containers and hidden away until 1389, when the first public demonstration of "the miracle" occurred. Three times every year since that date, enormous crowds gather outside the Duomo in Naples to witness it with their own eyes. If the vials are only filled with dry, solidified blood, then it is considered that the next few months will bear some form of misfortune to the city and its people. However, if the blood suddenly turns from a dark, lumpy chunk into fresh, bright red blood in front of the view of thousands of people, then it is an indicator of good fortune ahead.
Unlike many religious phenomena that are readily dismissed by science, St. Januarius' blood cannot be. It has been tested by the most advanced and rigorous modern laboratory techniques, and no alternative explanation has ever been proven, other than it is a miracle.
With the future fortune or misfortune of the entire city at stake, you can be assured that Neapolitans celebrate the feast heartily to indicate to the Saint that he should allow his blood to liquefy. The traditional street food which is served during the many huge processions through the avenues of the city is the famous San Gennaro Sausage and Peppers Sandwich. In all my travels, I've only encountered one place that serves this sandwich prepared as well and as tasty as you'll find in the streets of Naples, and appropriately it was in New York City, during the St. Januarius procession in Little Italy!
This recipe is right from one of the Neapolitan street vendors. It has been in his family for centuries, and he only divulged it because he lost a lot of money to me at cards and couldn't afford to pay up.
The recipe is simplicity itself, but relies on a very special spicy pork sausage which comes from Avellino, near Naples. To come close to duplicating this specialty, look for Hot Italian Pork Sausage at your market and check to see if they contain fennel seeds or anise seeds.
The great thing about San Gennaro Sausage and Peppers is that it can be prepared for a throng of hundreds or just for one, and it tastes just as great! Make sure you follow the instructions directly, for steaming the sausages over the veggies then moving the sausages to the bottom and increasing the heat is one of the big secrets!
Slice large yellow onions and orange (or red) peppers into fairly thin slices. Melt some lard (or bacon drippings) into a deep skillet over medium low heat. Place the onion and pepper slices into the skillet and place the sausages atop the vegetables. Cover and let simmer, turning gently every few minutes. Make sure to keep the sausages always atop the vegetables, and not let them fall to the bottom of the skillet. Once the onions have become translucent and the peppers soft, stir the contents so that the sausages are now under the vegetables and in direct contact with the bottom of the skillet. Turn the heat to absolute maximum. Keep stirring while ensuring that the sausages are always underneath the veggies until all of the cooking liquid has been absorbed or evaporated. By now, the onions should be golden brown and the peppers have areas of brownish crust. Just before removing from the skillet add salt and freshly ground pepper and give it a good stir. Take some of the best, crustiest, freshest and tastiest Italian buns you can find, slit them open, plunk the sausage in, cover it with a pile of onions and peppers, and thank St. Januarius and his blood for keeping Naples safe long enough for you to enjoy this incredible treat!