Tue Jul 8, 2014
I was pretty damn proud of myself that I pulled off making merguez at home. I thought I hit a high point in my exploration into Moroccan-influenced grilling with those links, but then I took those little sausages and put them between a toasted baguette, added some caramelized onions, cilantro, Manchego, and harissa mayo and created one of my favorite things I've ever grilled.
I've been doing a lot of sandwiches on the grill over the past few years. I'm loving using the grill to both cook the ingredients and then toast or press the sandwiches to get maximum use out of the fire. I've also been enjoying how these creations require a new level of thinking of how ingredients play off each other to make a complex, yet harmonious sandwich.
When considering what may go well with the flavor of spicy and earthy lamb merguez, my first thought was caramelized onions to provide a sweet contrast. So I whipped up a batch using the method of deglazing the pan with water each time the bottom is covered with fond. This made a large batch of soft, deeply browned, and sweet onions in only about 30 minutes.
That really was the extent of pre-prep expect for a sauce that was merely mixture of mayo and harissa. So it wasn't long until I was off to the grill to start putting this sandwich together, which started with grilling the merguez over direct heat until just cooked through.
Then I took a high-quality baguette (procured from Bouchon, for those in New York who are curious), cut it into six-inch pieces, and halved each of those lengthwise. I brushed the cut sides with extra-virgin olive oil and toasted it quickly on the hot grill.
Then the sandwich came to life as I laid two links of merguez side-by-side on the bottom of the bread, spread on a helping of caramelized onions, sprinkled it with grated Manchego cheese, and placed a few sprigs of cilantro on top. The other half of the bread got a slather of harissa mayo, and the sandwich then went back on the grill.
This time it was over indirect heat to allow time for the cheese gently melt without having to fear that the bread would burn. I'm a fan of a warm sandwiches, so pretty much all of them that I grill get the toasted or pressed treatment, which makes them all the better in my mind.
I figured this was going to be a good sandwich, but I wasn't prepared for just how good it really was. That's actually a bit of an understatement, I've grilled enough sandwiches by now to know that this one was reaching the territory of "masterful creation." Everything seemed to come together in perfect harmony.
As I imagined, the heat and rich flavor of the lamb was a perfect match to the sweet onions, while the Manchego add a slightly sharp and salty bite, the cilantro a hint of freshness, and the mayo a creaminess and more pronounced harissa flavor than the sausage brought on its own. The bread can't be overlooked either—so many sandwiches fail because of their encasing vessel and using a really good baguette was the closer here. I know the average home cook won't go through the trouble of making their own merguez, but it's definitely worth searching out a source of these fresh Moroccan sausages just to make this sandwich. I promise you won't be disappointed.
Merguez Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions, Manchego, and Harissa Mayonnaise
- Prep Time:
- 10 Minutes
- Cook Time:
- 20 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 30 Minutes
- 4 servings
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon harissa
- 8 links merguez
- 1 French baguette
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup caramelized onions
- 1/3 pound manchego cheese, grated
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro
- Mix mayonnaise and harissa together in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Grill merguez over hot side of grill until browned all over and cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes total. Transfer to plate.
- Slice baguette into four 6-inch portions and halve each portion lengthwise. Brush cut side of each baguette with oil. Grill baguette over hot side of grill, cut side down, until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Remove to plate.
- op bottom half of baguette with 2 merguez links, about 2 tablespoons of caramelized onions, manchego cheese, and a few sprigs of cilantro. Spread harissa mayo on top half of baguettes and place on top of each sandwich.
- Place sandwiches on cool side of grill, cover, and cook until cheese has melted, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate or tray and serve immediately.