Merguez with Pork and Lamb

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Lidia Bastianich visits Jacques Pepin and together they celebrate Bastille Day in Lidia Celebrates America: Freedom & Independence on PBS.

Yield: about 12 patties

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Ingredients

  • 1 pound of Italian sausage, already ground, either hot or mild
  • 1 or 2 lamb shoulder chops
  • 1½ teaspoons of cumin powder
  • ¾ teaspoon paprika
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  • Iceberg lettuce leaves
  • Cilantro leaves for garnish

Directions

  1. Buy 1 pound of Italian sausage, already ground, either hot or mild, and 1 or 2 lamb shoulder chops, about 12 ounces total. These chops are a bit “fatty,” and give great flavor to the merguez.
  2. Bone the chops, and cut the lamb meat into 1-inch pieces. You should have 9 to 10 ounces of meat.
  3. Grind all the meat through a medium-size screen in a meat grinder, which I have as an attachment to my mixer. Alternatively grind these pieces in a food processor for 10 to 15 seconds, and mix the ground lamb with the Italian sausage. (If you find the Italian sausage is coarser than you would like, grind it a little, as well, in the food processor.)
  4. To the combined meat, add 1½ teaspoons of cumin powder, ¾ teaspoon paprika, ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper, ¾ teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic.
  5. Mix together until well combined, and then form the meat into 12 pieces, each about the size of a ping-pong ball, and flatten slightly to make patties, each weighing about 2 ounces. At this point, the patties can be wrapped well and frozen, but be sure to allow them to thaw slowly in the refrigerator before cooking.
  6. To cook the merguez, place on a very hot grill for about 3 minutes on each side. They will get crusty and juicy, with a wonderful aroma. Do not press on them, as people often do with hamburgers. They should be cooked medium, with a juicy interior and seared exterior.
  7. Arrange on iceberg lettuce leaves, sprinkle with cilantro leaves and pass around to guests.

Tips/Techniques

From Jacques Pepin: Nearly fifty years ago, when I left France, I was already familiar with merguez, the traditional lamb sausage of North Africa. That part of the world, called the Maghreb, encompasses Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, all of which were part of the French colonial empire for many years. After these countries gained their independence in the 1960s, many of the Arabs settled in France, where they have lived for several generations. Along with other North African dishes, like couscous and mechoui, merguez is very popular in France. That little lamb sausage is a classic at any backyard barbecue or picnic there, as popular as the hot dog is in the U.S. Merguez are sometimes made only of lamb but often are a mixture of beef and lamb. I make my merguez with lamb and pork, which many Arabs would object to on religious grounds, but I feel that this combination works best together.

One of the problems in making sausages is to find casings and to have the use of a grinding machine with an attachment for stuffing them with the meat mixture. Merguez are about the size of breakfast sausages, and lamb casings of a little over an inch in diameter are traditionally used. As a different, delicious alternative, I make my merguez without casings, forming them into small patties, each weighing about 2 ounces.