Download WNF Podcast #2: Sandwich de Merguez
A few summers ago we were very fortunate to spend a long vacation traveling through northern Spain and southwestern France. It was our first real vacation alone since Amy and I had met, and was especially well-deserved because we had spent the previous 12 months going through the traumatic process of immigrating me to the United States and all the crap that goes along with moving to a new country and finding gainful employment. Even now, after ten or more trips overseas in the interim, we still look back on that wonderful trip with great nostalgia. In fact, so formative was it for us and our relationship together, that we might not be so passionate about food (or even have this blog) were it not for having driven those rural highways and byways eating and drinking our way through the small towns of Spain and France. So this post and podcast are a sort of belated paen to the mental tranquility we rediscovered on that trip.
As we planned it, we read-up on destinations en route from Barcelona to Bilbao and decided that Carcassonne should be amongst them. Quite apart from its culinary pedigree of being one of the three towns in that part of France which lay claim to having been the birthplace of the famous pork and bean dish cassoulet, it also, reputedly, has the best Bastille Day firework display anywhere in the country outside Paris. Judge for yourself in the video below.
Bastille Day or Fête de la Fédération (July 14th), is the French equivalent of the American Independence Day, and marks the storming and fall of the Bastille (Paris’ central prison where French political prisoners and fictional characters, including Dumas’ The Man In the Iron Mask were imprisoned) during the French Revolution that signified the ‘birth of the modern French nation’. It’s the biggest national holiday in France with celebrations and demonstrations of fidelity to La Patrimonie all over the country.
However, like many national holidays around the world, in spite of the ostensible patriotism of the day, good food, amazing fireworks and fun, drunk times are the thing that most people focus on. So, to line our stomachs before a night of drinking wine out of the bottle on the street (like everyone else), we, almost like Moses in the wilderness, followed the pillar of smoke towards the heady smell of grilled meat. There we found a lined, toothless, Algerian man, squinting against the smoke and spitting fat of his blackened grill, cooking huge merguez sausages (a spicy North African sausage made with beef or lamb) over hot coals. In exchange for a couple of euros, he nestled a couple of these sausages snugly into a crusty baguette alongside a load of salty, golden french fries, and smeared the whole thing with dijon mustard and ketchup. That’s what I call street food!
The sandwich is exactly what you’d imagine, and after a couple of drinks, it’s even better. The spiciness of the merguez along with the salty, crispy french fries, well, it just doesn’t get any better. We’re not actually going to post a recipe for this one, only a quick pictorial step-by-step below – you’ll have to listen to the podcast for a detailed how to – but anyone with half a brain (and we firmly believe our readers are in possession of somewhat more than that) should be able to make their own sandwich de merguez with ease. As you can see from the photos, we added some fried leeks as a topping in what can only be described as a petty bourgeois touch, which the French revolutionaries of old would certainly have disproved of, but that’s freedom for you, right? In a similarly middle-class stylie (or sans culottes for those of you who’ve fought your way through Baudelaire’s Paris Spleen), we attempted to make our own version of a harissa sauce, combining ketchup, 1 clove of roasted garlic, 1 fire-roasted habanero (yes, the sauce was a f***in’ wildman), and a pinch or less of ground coriander, cumin, mustard powder, black pepper and kosher salt in a food processor, but you could use dijon mustard and ketchup as your condiments, as we did that hallowed night in Carcassonne. Enjoy the sandwich whenever you like, but why not give it a try during the next national holiday wherever you are. After all, you don’t have to be French to appreciate spicy sausages and fries in a crusty roll!
Thanks to Zach at Serious Eats for featuring this sandwich in his weekly Serious Sandwiches column. THANK YOU!
SANDWICH DE MERGUEZ – A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE
1. Grill some merguez sausages on an indoor or outdoor grill.
2. Thinly slice some leeks.
3. Toss thinly sliced leeks in 2 tablespoons of flour PLUS 2 tablespoons cornstarch and fry in some veggie oil for about 1 minute.
4. Thinly slice 2 or 3 potatoes.
5. Heat up some vegetable oil and double fry your thin-sliced potatoes until golden brown. Allow to drain on some paper towels and sprinkle with salt.
6. In a fresh baguette, brush some dijon and spicy ketchup on each side of the bread. Add your grilled sausages, nestle some french fries between the sausages and the bread and then top with some fried leeks. ENJOY and feel free to keep dipping sandwich in some more mustard and ketchup.
63 thoughts on “Sandwich de Merguez: French Street-Food at its Best – A Podcast”
Hi, Soraya! Thanks so much for commenting on this “oldie but goodie” – it’s bringing back great memories – we often don’t look back at old posts, but we need to more often. Also thank you for your great comment!
Now, let’s really get down to business here, Soraya… you’ve got a great merguez recipe, huh? Is it really your secret? wouldn’t you LOVE to give a new years present to us? Kidding – no pressure, but if you’re interested in sharing, feel free to email it to us at email@example.com. we’d love to give it a try (when we can ever get our hands on lamb casings… oh i’m salivating now).
please visit us again… and again!! merci, merci!
amy and jonny
Thirty years ago we lived in France (Toulon) for a year – I was 9 years old. I went to a small South African school (Daphne) where we had one french boy attending called Eve.
I shall never forget the croissants (Nautilus Hotel in Toulon) and the merquez sausages sold by vendors. In those years they used to take a french loaf and cut it into large pieces, cut it open and either fill it with ham and mustard or merquez, as ordered. (Memory failure – some salsa with the merquez?). NO FRENCH FRIES.
And LASTLY, but not the least, these treats were then TOASTED in a Grill Press (Machine), before it was wrapped in paper and handed over. Hot, Steamy, Crispy, Tasty and Spicy!! I get tearfull just remembering.
If at all possible, please e-mail me a Genuine FRENCH croissant and a DETAILED genuine Merquez recipe so that I can try to duplicate a nostalgic moment here in my home in South Africa. Our Croissants CANNOT MATCH THE MEMORY and I have never eaten a merquez sauage again. I have not been able to buy it anywhere, so I will have to make it myself.
My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
All the time I was in Paris (over a year) somehow I never discovered merguez. However, when I transferred to La Rochelle I was introduced to merguez. Unlike in the photos, and unlike the ones I recently bought domestically, the merguez I had were smaller, spicier, and more flavorful. I am working on a recipe of my own so I can have the La Rochelle version anytime I want. How how I miss them!!
@Gary – Thanks for the comment. It’s interesting you should mention that. I’ve not been to La Rochelle since 1989 when on a school trip I drank cognac for the first time, so I can’t speak to the availability of merguez there versus other places in France, but I feel like they, and other north African ingredients are pretty well accepted into the cannon of foods widely found in France, though they are certainly easier to find in Arab neighborhoods of the large cities.
my brother-in-law is making these sandwiches as a street vendor in Atlanta, GA. they’re delicious.
@Clarke: they are delicious. What’s the name of the Atlanta street cart? Happy to plug it here.
Wow, that looks fantastic! My favourite way to eat Merguez is in a crusty roll with tzatziki; the cool, lemony yoghurt is well balanced with the spices. I will have to try the frites next time.
‘Toothless Algerian man’? Why such awful descriptive and bigoted image of immigrants from North Africa? His looks have nothing to do with the fine and amazing cuisine of his country. I find your comments disgusting! Stick to food blogging and not stereotyping minorities! Thank you.
@Ray: thanks for reading. I appreciate your outrage but what happens if, as is actually the truth, the man who served us the merguez frites sandwich was from Algeria, had a lined face and no teeth? Would we be unable to say so for fear of stereotyping? Frankly, what we did isn’t stereotyping at all, it’s the exact opposite – i.e. describing the individual in question, rather than making general statements about a type of person. Perhaps you aren’t sure what stereotyping means?
When was the last time we French people had Merguez sandwich with leeks & mustard or ketchup??? LOL..NEVER
Should have said modified version of Merguez sandwich..
The original is simply Fresh Baguette, Harissa, Merguez & Frittes!
Yes French & proud, and a foodie snob ! 🙂
Hey, Noelle. As much as we appreciate your comment (and, believe me, there is nothing we like more than starting a conversation about food history, tradition and authenticity, it is pretty obvious you simply looked at our pictures and didn’t read the post.
Had you read the post you would’ve noticed the following:
“As you can see from the photos, we added some fried leeks as a topping in what can only be described as a petty bourgeois touch, which the French revolutionaries of old would certainly have disproved of, but that’s freedom for you, right? In a similarly middle-class stylie (or sans culottes for those of you who’ve fought your way through Baudelaire’s Paris Spleen), we attempted to make our own version of a harissa sauce…”
So, yes, we did add those things that were not traditional… and alerted you to it! Maybe our Merguez Frites sandwich guy in Carcassone didn’t have harissa on him on a busy Bastille Day? YES, we were offered ketchup and mustard – we are not making it up.
And, yes, we were one of very few non French people buying the sandwiches that day. Original or not, this is how we had it. and it was pretty friggin good!