May 6th, 2008 by Jonny
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.
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.