Tonight, a rustic, minimalistic dinner -- uncomplicated, unadulterated food that looks like and tastes of precisely what it is. Assertively spiced merguez perks up senses dulled by the winter's chill with its red-hot heat. Brussels sprouts, treated with a delicate hand, bring a slight and pleasing bitterness that complements the richness of the lamb in a just-so sort of way. All in all, a winner. Ready, as always, in just about an hour.
Makes 1 lb. of bulk merguez sausage to feed 4
1 tablespoon coriander seed, dry toasted
1 tablespoon cumin seed, dry toasted
1 tablespoon anise seed, or fennel seed, in a pinch, dry toasted
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2-1 teaspoon cayenne, depending on your harissa
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 pound fresh ground lamb shoulder
2 garlic cloves, minced fine
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon spice mix
2 tablespoons harissa
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste
Ice water, as needed
1. Combine the spice mix ingredients and grind fine using a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle. The extra can be stored in a glass jar.
2. Using a mixer, combine all the sausage ingredients. Add the ice water, a tablespoon at a time until the mixture is well combined. If you have ground the meat yourself, you probably won't need much ice water.
3. Form a little patty and cook it off, taste and adjust the seasoning as you see fit.
4. Cover and chill this mixture overnight if you can. This will help the flavors develop. If overnight is impossible, chill at least an hour.
5. Dip your hands in ice water as you form the sausage patties. Chill the patties again if you are not going to cook them right away.
6. Grill the merguez patties for 10-12 minutes total, turning once (or just cook them in a pan on the stovetop). Serve.
1 pound ground lamb shoulder
24 (or so) brussels sprouts
We bet you have olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, turmeric, coriander, garlic, onion powder, and celery salt. If not, you'll need those, too!
1. The sausage needs to rest for about an hour before you serve it, so definitely attack it first. It's a pretty simple process -- particularly if you buy ground lamb shoulder (or ask your butcher to do it for you). Since it's a weeknight, take the shortcut!
2. Now for the sprouts! Just a quick boil to ensure tender insides, followed by a good drizzle of oil and salt and pepper. Now, if you have a grill pan, this is a great moment to break it out (rather than the actual grill, unless you're feeling ambitious, in which case feel free!). Another approach would be to simply roast them in a hot oven for 10 to 12 minutes, instead of grilling. We promise they'll be almost as tasty.
3. While the sprouts grill (or roast), form the merguez patties and cook them in a pan or on the grill.
Photos by Sarah Shatz