Merguez Sausage: North African Flavor for Any Meal

Merguez Sausage: North African Flavor for Any Meal

The Sausage That Stole My Heart

I’ll never forget the first time I tasted merguez sausage. It was during my days living in Paris, and the experience was nothing short of a culinary revelation. These finger-thin, lean sausages were a far cry from the mild, fatty breakfast links I’d grown accustomed to back home. Fiery red with harissa and fragrant with a heady blend of cumin, coriander, and sumac, they were the feisty, taut-skinned wizened men of the sausage world – not to be underestimated.

I’d stumble upon them in couscous restaurants scattered throughout the city, or pick them up from street vendors and specialty markets. Whether eaten alone with couscous or tucked into a bun with frites and sauce, these North African delights were the essence of Morocco, transporting me to the dry, desert heat with each and every bite.

Taste Food captured the experience perfectly: “Finger-thin, lean in fat and fiery red hot, these North African sausages were the wizened angry little men of sausages – taut, feisty and not to be underestimated.” That sentiment rings true to this day. Even after moving away from Paris and exploring the world of sausages far and wide, nothing has ever quite measured up to those original merguez I fell head-over-heels for.

So when I learned that El Bahia, a Moroccan restaurant in the heart of New York City, was offering their own homemade merguez, I knew I had to try it. Would it live up to the memory of those Parisian masterpieces? Or would it fall flat, another failed attempt to recapture the magic? There was only one way to find out.

The Pursuit of Merguez Perfection

I’ll admit, I had my doubts. As the Mercury News article noted, “So far nothing I have eaten replicates the North African merguez I tasted in France.” The bar was set impossibly high. But as a self-proclaimed merguez connoisseur, I had to give it a shot.

Walking through the doors of El Bahia, the familiar aromas of cumin, coriander, and harissa immediately transported me back to those Parisian side-street eateries. I could practically hear the sizzle of merguez on the grill. My mouth watered in anticipation.

The menu boasted an impressive array of Moroccan specialties, but I had eyes for only one thing – the merguez. I ordered it without hesitation, eagerly awaiting my first bite.

When the plate arrived, I have to admit I was a bit skeptical. The sausages, while certainly bearing the telltale red hue of harissa, didn’t quite have the same taut, lean appearance as the ones I remembered. But I pushed aside my preconceptions and took a tentative taste.

The first flavor that hit my tongue was unmistakably cumin, followed by a subtle warmth from the harissa. As I chewed, the blend of spices unfolded, with the coriander and sumac providing a unique depth of flavor. And to my delight, the texture was spot-on – not too fatty, with just the right amount of bite.

It wasn’t an exact replica of the Parisian merguez, to be sure. But it was undeniably related, a kindred spirit that captured the essence of those beloved sausages. I couldn’t help but smile as I savored each bite, the memories of my time in France flooding back with every delicious morsel.

Merguez at Home

Inspired by my El Bahia experience, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands and try my hand at making merguez sausage at home. After all, as Butcher’s Apprentice noted, “Merguez sausages have a long and storied history, with roots tracing back to North Africa.”

I set out to recreate the flavors I remembered, meticulously measuring out the cumin, coriander, sumac, and harissa. As I mixed the spices into the ground lamb, the aroma alone was enough to have me salivating. I could practically envision those taut, red-hued sausages sizzling away on the grill.

Rather than stuffing the meat into casings, I opted for a simpler approach – forming the mixture into small patties, or “keftas” as they’re known in the region. While not quite as elegant as the slender merguez I’d grown accustomed to, the flavors were undeniably spot-on.

I served the merguez keftas with warm pita bread, a dollop of cool, creamy Greek-style yogurt, and a drizzle of homemade harissa sauce. The contrast of the fiery sausage, the tangy yogurt, and the toasted, chewy pita was nothing short of perfection. Each bite transported me right back to the bustling streets of Paris, where I’d eagerly devour these North African delights.

A Versatile Delight

One of the things I love most about merguez sausage is its incredible versatility. While they’re undoubtedly delicious on their own, these spicy links can elevate a wide range of dishes, from breakfast to dinner and everything in between.

For a hearty morning meal, try crumbling merguez into your scrambled eggs or serving it alongside roasted potatoes and sautéed greens. The bold, flavorful sausage pairs beautifully with the rich yolks and crispy potatoes, creating a flavor explosion that’s sure to kick-start your day.

Looking for a new twist on your lunchtime routine? Tuck merguez into a pita with a creamy tahini sauce and fresh veggies for a portable, flavor-packed meal. Or, take it to the next level by grilling the sausages and serving them on crusty baguette with caramelized onions and a tangy harissa aioli.

And when dinnertime rolls around, merguez shines in a range of Moroccan-inspired dishes. Crumble it into a fragrant tagine with chickpeas, tomatoes, and warm spices. Or nestle the sausages into a bed of fluffy couscous, drizzled with a zesty chermoula sauce.

The possibilities are truly endless. No matter how you choose to enjoy it, merguez sausage is a guaranteed way to infuse your meals with the vibrant, complex flavors of North Africa. It’s a taste of the Maghreb that’s sure to delight your senses and transport your taste buds.

Merguez at El Bahia

Of course, if you’re not quite ready to take on the challenge of homemade merguez, the expert chefs at El Bahia have you covered. Their version of this iconic North African sausage is a testament to authenticity and attention to detail.

The merguez at El Bahia is made in-house, using a blend of spices that perfectly captures the essence of Moroccan cuisine. The sausages are lean and tender, with a satisfying snap when you bite into them. And that signature fiery red hue, courtesy of the harissa, is simply irresistible.

Whether you opt to enjoy the merguez on its own, tucked into a pita with all the fixings, or as part of a larger Moroccan-inspired feast, you’re in for a true culinary adventure. The depth of flavor in these sausages is nothing short of remarkable, each bite revealing new layers of complexity.

So if you find yourself craving a taste of North Africa, head to El Bahia and let the merguez sausage work its magic. It’s a flavor that’s sure to captivate your senses and leave you dreaming of Parisian side streets and the warmth of the Moroccan desert. Trust me, it’s a love affair that’s sure to last.

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