MerguezPosted: March 23, 2013
While I was working with Austin (the Fishmonger) at Rubiner’s Cheesemongers and Grocers in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, I discovered a lamb sausage called merguez. Shop proprietor Matthew Rubiner purchased the sausage from Jamison Farm in Pennsylvania. We grilled the sausages to order for service in the cafe and served them simply, on a baguette with a harissa paste. Gorgeous, simple, unique. After leaving Rubiner’s, I longed for these delicate, bright red, aromatic French tid bits. I looked up recipes online, found a few that I thought sounded right, combined them and birthed my own.
Before beginning my journey to making merguez, I wanted to know where it came from. Knowing the roots of your food (so to speak) can greatly aid you in creating a recipe. You wouldn’t add star anise to a traditional bratwurst, for example, because star anise isn’t exactly native to the region in which the first bratwurst were made. The problem with merguez is…it’s complicated. It is North African in origin, specifically, it seems, from Tunisia, but today is widely regarded as a French sausage. I suppose it isn’t too hard to understand how this happened, as it’s only the Balearic Sea separating the two countries…and occupiers tend to make traditional, regional delicacies their own (Tunisia was a French protectorate from the mid 1800s until the 1950s).
Having origins in Tunisia, the flavors of merguez are more easily recognized. Highly spiced with cinnamon, harissa, fennel, garlic, etc, merguez is a sausage unlike any other. The piquancy of the sausage set it apart from anything you’ve ever had. It is truly a full mouth experience. The delicate lamb meat lends itself perfectly to the soaring notes of cinnamon, the sweetness of fennel, the heat of harissa. It is a unique experience that I guarantee you will enjoy.
Yes, Whole Foods has it. Jamison Farm has it. But mine is better.