I had lunch with Julia Turshen a couple months ago (mostly so I could fangirl out and try to sponge up some curl tips for my moppet) and one of my favorite things she told me was that when she moved from Brooklyn to upstate with her wife her cooking changed because all of a sudden she was doing it everyday. She felt she got better at cooking from her gut, throwing meals together with whatever they had — it’s simply not an option to eat out or order in every night the way she could before so not every meal could be a performance piece. Sometimes it’s just chicken on the grill with a good sauce and salad on the side.
If you’re anything like me — but with a cleaner apartment, I bet — you’re thinking “wait, tell me about the sauce!” because odds are, like the avocado-cucumber salad I spied on the side of her plate a year ago and ran off to tell you about, it’s something crazy simple that you didn’t realize you knew how to make and now you’re 300x more excited to grill chicken and make salad tonight. The good news for us is that Turshen, who previously only hid her cooking talent behind larger-than-life names like Mario Batali, Gwyneth Paltrow, Dana Cowin, Hot Bread Kitchen, Buvette, Fat Radish… seriously, I’m just getting started… finally penned her own book with all the great simple sauces and 400 other things I cannot wait to cook.
Our conversation (also, we’re having another one on Thursday!) did not turn to sausage making, but apparently, she does this too. Meat grinders? Casings? No thank you, right? But once she realized that sausage is essentially highly seasoned ground meat, she began forming them into patties and for an ambitious but not-too-ambitious weeknight meal. Her merguez is perfect — sure, I can get it around here from a couple good butchers, but it’s often too spicy for the kids and this is so much better: seasoned exactly to taste and crispy from the pan. You serve it with an herbed yogurt and for us, a tomato-cucumber salad on the side and some pita wedges. You could also make them into little sliders in pitas with a tahini sauce and crunchy greens, falafel-style. And then one day you might be at lunch and will casually drop that you made sausage last night from and it took about 15 minutes because this is us now: people who make amazing things on weekday nights like it is no big deal. Or, at least tonight.
Homemade Merguez with Herby Yogurt
This recipe is adapted, just barely, from Julia Turshen’s Small Victories. Merguez is a spicy fresh sausage in North African cuisine, and is also popular throughout the Middle East and Europe. It’s usually made with mutton or beef; we are going to use lamb. Harissa usually gives it its characteristic red color; Turshen calls for 2 tablespoons but because I have kids who would not appreciate it, I used just a little squeeze. You can adjust it to taste as well. Oh, and if you’re feeling extra-ambitious, you can also make your own very delicious harissa. But I was out and used this.
- 1/2 cup (110 grams) plain yogurt
- A small handful finely chopped leafy fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, mint, chives, dill or a mix thereof) plus a few roughly chopped, to serve
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar, or more to taste
- Kosher salt
- Olive oil
- A handful shredded red cabbage to serve (optional)
- Lemon wedges, to serve
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds or a heaped 1/2 teaspoon ground
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds or a heaped 1/2 teaspoon ground
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds or a heaped 1/2 teaspoon ground
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons harissa paste (I just used a small squeeze) or another hot sauce
- 1 pound (455 grams) ground lamb, at room temperature
Make the merguez: If using whole spices, toast them in a dry skillet over medium heat for a few minutes until fragrant. Grind them in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.
Combine lamb, spices, including paprika, harissa, garlic and 1 teaspoon (Turshen called for 1 1/2, which was very salty and we liked it but probably not for everyone) kosher salt and mix to combine. Form into 12 mounds.
[Do ahead: You can keep the mixed meat patties and herbed yogurt in the fridge for up to 3 days.]
Heat a large, heavy skillet over high heat. Coat with olive oil and once it is very hot, add a few sausage mounds. Once they hit the frying pan, flatten them with the back of your spatula. Cook until brown and crispy underneath, then flip and cook for another minute or two. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining meat.
Serve patties warm with herby yogurt and scattered with extra herbs and shredded cabbage, if desired, plus wedges of lemon to squeeze over.
First published September 13, 2016 on smittenkitchen.com |
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