Sausages, which evolved as a way to use up and/or preserve the remnants of a butchering, often represent some of the most artful culinary contributions of any given part of the world. Sausages can be fresh or dried, cured or smoked, flavored with garlic, pepper, fennel seed, nutmeg and a myriad of other seasonings, balanced with fat and sometimes extended with rice or wheat or cornmeal.

Traditionally made from ground pork, sausage nowadays is often made with chicken, turkey, lean beef and even from tofu or other soy protein.

I always keep a pound or so of a garlicky, smoked sausage in my freezer, either Polish kielbasa or Portuguese linguica or chourico, and use it to flavor soups (such as the lentil and kale soup below), stews, rice dishes and a nifty skillet potato casserole.

Potato and Sausage Skillet Dinner

Vast Aroostook County, encompassing more land than the rest of the counties in the state combined, grows 90 percent of the large potato crop produced in Maine. This savory skillet supper dish is perfect for supper on a cold winter evening. Add some cooked greens to the plate – kale, broccoli rabe or spinach.

Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil

8 ounces kielbasa or similar garlicky, smoked, cooked sausage, cut in ¼-inch slices

1 large onion, sliced

2 pounds all-purpose potatoes, peeled and sliced (5 to 6 cups)

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

1 cup apple juice or cider

½ cup dry white wine

1 bay leaf, broken in half

In a very large (11- or 12-inch), preferably nonstick, skillet with sides at least 2 inches high, heat the oil. Add sausage and onion and cook over medium heat, stirring, until onion softens and sausage begins to brown, about 6 minutes.

Add sliced potatoes to the skillet, sprinkle with the flour, thyme and pepper and toss gently but thoroughly to combine well.

Pour the broth, apple juice and wine over the potato mixture and add the bay leaf. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low, and cook, covered, until the potatoes are tender, 35 to 40 minutes.

Serve directly from the skillet.

Lentil, Sausage and Kale Soup

Add a green salad and toasted Portuguese bread for a standout winter meal.

Serves 4 to 6

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 large carrot, thinly sliced

1 celery stalk, chopped

2 cups chicken broth

12 ounces linguica or other garlicky, smoked, cooked sausage, cut ½-inch thick

1½ cups (about 10 ounces) lentils, rinsed and picked over to remove any grit

1 bay leaf

½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste

1 small bunch (about ½ pound) kale, cut into ¾-inch ribbons

1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large soup pot. Cook onion, carrot, and celery over medium heat until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add broth and 6 cups water, sausage, lentils, bay leaf and pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cook, covered, until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.

Add kale and tomatoes to the pot and cook uncovered over medium heat for 15 minutes, adjusting the amount of liquid if necessary.

Stir in vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste. (Soup may not need salt due to saltiness of sausage.)

Soup can be made up to 3 days ahead. It also freezes well.

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Lobster!” She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at:

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