merguez & couscous

Posted on May 9, 2011. Filed under: Dinner, What Next? | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |


Success!  I was able to find merguez, although I did have to go to 4 different stores and call a few others to find it.  Fortunately, it was completely worth it.  I’m not sure how readily available it is at the everyday store but if a butcher will order it for you, definitely take the plunge.  It can be used to make a fantastic sandwich which we used to eat when working in Belgium (and they are desperately missed!).  The place we went to had fresh baguettes with merguez, spicy mayo and melted cheese and the only thing missing may have been some french fries, which are often added in France.  Basically what I’m saying is buy extra sausage and throw it in the freezer.

Another note about this recipe is that if there are any veggies you don’t like in the list, just replace them with extras of another, but if you aren’t sure – try them out!  I’m saying this specifically in reference to the turnip.  I’d never cooked with it before but it really does nicely in this dish and is surprisingly easy to work with.  I admit that this meal lends itself much better to a cold, rainy night but it was beautiful and 60s outside when I made it and it was still fantastic (in my humble opinion!).  I used two different recipes for this, mainly focusing on this with a few minor changes.

This meal is inspired by one of my favorite meals from my first and only trip to Paris (but really how could I pick just one meal).  My very first night, my wonderful friend and fluent in French guide Marie brought me to this cramped, crowded, hot restaurant that was a sea of tables.  There wasn’t really even a point looking at the menu – people came for the couscous and they stayed because there were so many tables they literally would have to climb over people to get out.

My second favorite night – wine, bread, cheese, chocolate, sausage, fruit…

So throw on a beret, make this dish and have some cheap french wine.  You won’t regret it!  This recipe claims to make 2 servings but really it’s more like 4 or more.  If you end up with extra vegetables, you can always make some more couscous with water or stock.  It’s also a great vegetarian dish without the meat.

Ingredients:

2 small onions chopped fine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
4 teaspoons tomato paste
3 cups chicken broth
1 ½ cups water
1 pound merguez
2 carrots cut diagonally into ½” thick slices
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 turnip peeled, and cut into ½” cubes
1 cinnamon stick – (2″ to 3″ long)
2-3 bay leaf
1 tablespoon of moroccan spice mix (ras-el-hanout)
1 can chick-peas rinsed well, and drained
1 zucchini, sliced in half and cut in ½” thick pieces
1 ½ cups couscous

In a large, heavy saute pan, cook the onion in a tablespoon of the butter over moderately-low heat until it is softened.  Add the tumeric and the red pepper flakes and cook the mixture for another minute.  If you don’t like spicy, decrease the red pepper.

Stir in the tomato paste, the Moroccan spice, the broth, the water, the carrot, the turnip, the tomatoes, the cinnamon stick, and the bay leaf and simmer the mixture, covered, for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.  Sidenote about the Moroccan spice – Safeway carries some spice mixes in the refrigerated section, near all the fresh herbs.  They are in tubes and I found a Morrocan mix once that is perfect for this.  I squeeze in a tablespoon of it.  If you can’t find that and don’t want to make or buy a ras-el-hanout mix, you can leave this out.  Add the chick-peas and zucchini and simmer the mixture for 5 minutes.

Once you add the chickpeas and the zucchini to the pan, put a skillet over medium heat and cook the merguez for a few minutes on each side, until browned a bit.  Since it’s relatively thin sausage, it doesn’t take too long to cook.  I will warn you that the sausage does splatter a lot and can be fatty.  That’s why I choose not to cook the sausage IN the vegetable mixture.  That’s an option if you want to just do it in one pan.  Also, I’m not going to lie to you.  Cooked merguez kiiiiind of looks like cat poop.  Not trying to gross you out or anything and it tastes delicious, but don’t be surprised.  That’s all I’m sayin.

Strain/ladle 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid off the vegetable mixture into a small saucepan with a tablespoon of butter and bring the mixture to a boil.  Stir in the couscous, cover the pot and remove from the heat.  Let the mixture stand, covered, for 5 minutes.  Couscous is pretty much the easiest thing ever to make.  Odd to think that my sister and I were so disgusted by it when our mom used to eat it when we were kids.  Fluff the couscous with a fork.  When fluffing, scrape the fork over over the top layer of the couscous, gradually loosing it.  If you just go in there with a spoon, it ends up globbing up.

Once everything is cooked and fluffed, take a large scoop or two of couscous and put them in the center of the plate.  Top it with a lot of vegetables and also some of the cooking liquid.  Top with some sausage and enjoy!

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