Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Grilled Merguez with Fresh Prune Chutney
Merguez or mirqaz is a spiced Tunisian or Algerian sausage usually made with lamb and occasionally with veal or beef. Typically red in color, the aromatic merguez takes its hue from harisa and cayenne pepper, and the sausage is used both fresh and dried – in drying, it is pricked all over and left in the sun for 48 hours before being stored in jugs of olive oil.
Authentic preparations call for roasting, braising, or sautéing, though fresh versions of the sausage are also grilled with delicious results. Merguez makes a savory addition to tagines and is a popular meze. Of course, the sausage is well-loved in other parts of the Mediterranean – especially France, which has had a strong affinity for North African cuisine since Morocco was its protectorate in the late 19th and first half of the 20th centuries.
I like to serve my grilled merguez with a French fresh prune chutney, recreated partly with the help of a classic Mark Bittman recipe. The pairing is hardly traditional, but I find that the chutney complements the sweet heat of the sausage in a way that is utterly addictive and perfect for early autumn. Any firm plum will do here, but I’ve chosen prunes for their velvety color and low moisture content. The chutney keeps for at least a few days in the fridge and is also great over meat, game, and oily fish, or on cheese and charcuterie boards.
Violet Hill Farm makes the most extraordinary fresh merguez sausages - redolent with harisa, cinnamon, and maybe even dried rose petals judging from the floral sweetness of the smoke when they’re grilled. If you can’t find fresh merguez near you, they deliver within the continental U.S. Otherwise, you can certainly substitute any fresh spicy sausage. Oh, and by the by, leftover sausages and chutney make great sandwiches the next day.
Update: You can also telephone or email Violet Hill Farm to order their merguez:
Fresh Prune Chutney
Makes 2 ½ cups
10 fresh prunes or other firm plums, halved lengthwise and pitted
½ cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup honey
1 medium red onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced or grated on a microplane
1/4 cup raisins
1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
1 heaping tbsp wholegrain mustard
½ - 1 tsp crushed red chili flakes
3 star anise pods, plus more for garnish if desired
Chop the fruit into small pieces and reserve. In a medium sauce pan, combine the rest of the ingredients and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring often. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 5 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.
Stir in the prunes and cook uncovered for another 8 – 10 minutes or until the mixture is slightly thickened. Check the seasoning with more honey, vinegar, or crushed red pepper
Keeps covered in the fridge for 3 – 4 days.
Grilled Merguez Sausage
Preheat your grill or grill pan over medium high heat. Rinse and pat dry the sausage and prick on both sides with a sharp knife. Grill for 5 minutes a side or longer if the sausage is thick. Cut into pieces and serve alongside the chutney for dipping.