Virtually everywhere they make sausages, and in a lot of places they don’t, some form of sausage in bread combination is sold by street vendors, often to the inebriated, and, in many cases, the consumer is best advised to be under the influence before taking their life in their hands with one of these mystery bag sandwiches. The night I met my wife, for example, I remember being horrified that her sister (who had introduced us earlier in the evening) was reckless enough — even after 50 drinks — to buy an insanitary-looking sausage in a roll from a street vendor in London’s Piccadilly Circus.
Where sanitation isn’t the biggest issue, a sense of disappointment often is, with the boring and insipid offerings available at any of the myriad hot dog stands lining almost every Manhattan street exemplifying this. Do not get me wrong, a New York hot dog — pulled from the disquietingly opaque water, slapped into a curiously spongy potato roll, and painted with mustard and an unidentifiable relish – is certainly a real taste of NYC street life, and when you’ve been pounding the city streets for an afternoon, almost enjoyable, but it is not great street food, regardless of what Adam Platt at NYMag says. (feel free to post your own disagreements with me below)
However, the more I travel, the more I realize that these sausage and bread combos can actually be both safe for human consumption and, in some cases, a delicacy. You may remember our merguez frites sandwich of last year, which was not just the best street food we’d ever had, but right up there with the finest sandwiches too. Even the overtly filthy nature of that vendor in Carcassonne failed to put us off. Indeed, it’s probably true that we would risk a searing bout of intestinal drainage on a weekly basis if only merguez frites were readily available.
So, during our recent trip to Argentina we were intrigued by rusty little cabins that we passed throughout Buenos Aires, either parked-up or slumping shack-ily on the sidewalk, emitting wonderfully aromatic smoke and advertizing choripán and morcipán on gaily painted signs. After one particularly lengthy trek across the city from Palermo to Recoleta to the edge of Balvanera, we were ravenous and mentally-prepared for something of questionable hygiene wrapped in a roll and doused with condiments.
Following a tip we had picked up online, we headed to the corner of Avenida Juan B. Justo and Avenida Santa Fe in Palermo [right next to the Palermo Subte stop (D line)], to a very sweaty looking snack bar for a pre-dinner choripán — a chori(zo) on bread (pan). Smaller than our pitifully-sized Brooklyn apartment and decorated with aging posters of scantily-clad beer models, our senses immediately told us that this cafe was exactly the kind of place that would deliver the equal measures of delicious, greasy victuals and stinging doses of the raging squitters we were looking for. [Happily, only the former arrived.]
Your typical sausage and roll combination features a roll that follows the dimensions of the sausage: long and narrow. However, one of the many things I immediately liked about choripáns and morcipáns is that they invert this absolutist relationship on its head. The sausage is split down the center, seared on both “faces” a la plancha and, dripping with bright orange fat, is placed inside a rectangular hunk of French-style bread. Not only is it texturally superior to its flimsy American counterpart, but its increased surface area and the greater density of the bread, make it a far better designed sandwich than the hot dog. As, enclosed in a larger roll, your choice of condiments — in this case, mayonnaise, “golf sauce” (not unlike Russian/Thousand Island dressing), ketchup, mustard, and chimichurri — are less able to escape and damage shirt or shoes, as frequently happens when biting down on the open-topped frankfurter.
Unfortunately, once you go choripán, you can never go back, and their absence from my everyday street food scene has become a source of extreme frustration now that I’m back in New York. Passing-by vendors of the humble hot dog several times a day, I can’t help sneer a little at their meagre offerings of limp weiner and rubbery potato roll, and I mutter to myself that the magnificent, spicy, chewy choripán is a shining light compared to their ghostly reflections.
Happily, choripáns and morcipáns are easy and fun to make in the comfort of your own home and make a great alternative to the unimaginative backyard barbecue staples of weiners and burgers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we couldn’t find Argentine-style chorizo in Brooklyn, but the easy to find, and similarly fresh and soft Colombian and Mexican varieties make worthy replacements, even if they are longer and slimmer than their Argentina counterparts. This past weekend, humming “the choripán man, the choripán man’s really got it going on…” inanely to ourselves, we mixed-up a tangy chimichurri, grilled ourselves some chorizo, and enjoyed a taste of Buenos Aires with a cold beer, even if we had to imagine the warm weather and palm trees.
Note: there are about as many recipes for chimichurri as bits of charred animal to serve with it, so feel free to tinker with this one as much as you like. Please also note that, contrary to popular opinion, chimichurri is rarely served with steak. Salsa criolla seems to be the steak sauce of choice in Argentina and Uruguay. Chimichurri is reserved for sausages and organ meats.
- 1/4 onion, finely diced
- 1-2 cloves garlic, smashed and finely diced
- 4 tsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 2 tsp dried thyme or 3tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
- 1 tsp dried oregano, or 2tsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup (ish) good olive oil
- 2tbsp white wine vinegar
- (optional) juice of half lemon
- (optional) 1/2 tsp lemon zest, finely chopped
- black pepper
- Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl
- Stir well and allow to improve overnight or for at least an hour
- Taste before serving and correct seasoning and acidity.
- Serve with your choripán, morcipán or tablita parillada (mixed grill)