A few months ago I went to a local gourmet takeout restaurant and ordered a merguez frite sandwich. From the first bite, I adored and craved more of it. There were so many things to love: the unusual crimson color of the sausage, its sweet and savory scents, and the crunch of the fries. Unfortunately, the restaurant changed the menu as they do every month and soon my beloved sandwich was gone. However, I was not just going to say goodbye to my sandwich that easily.
First I did a little research. Turns out merguez frites are quite common in France; a takeout sandwich. They get their name from merguez, a North African lamb sausage that gets it red color from the harissa sauce inside. The sausage is grilled and placed in fresh baguette, which is then stuffed full of French fries (or frites as the French would call them).
I decided I had to have this sandwich again and so I set out to cook it myself. With just a simple internet search, I was able to find heaps of merguez sausage recipes. I ended up selecting this one from the New York Times from its list of ingredients and simplicity with a couple of changes. All of my scholarly research (Google) indicated that merguez should have cinnamon; it is both a spicy and sweet sausage. Therefore, I add a dash of cinnamon. Also, merguez is known for its red color, but this recipe did not call for harissa. Instead of the red pepper flakes it calls for, I use about 1-2 teaspoons of harissa (the more the spicier, but you can always spread some harissa on the finished sandwich).
If you aren’t into making your own sausage you can usually just buy some, but its much more adventurous to make your own and often easier than the trip. Some specialty butchers, like the Fatted Calf in San Francisco, do carry merguez sausage. I’ve tried this as well and find it to be different, but just as good as my homemade merguez. However, the benefit to making your own is that you can form it into patties, which better fit into the baguette.
Once you have the sausage made, grilled, and put in the baguette all that’s left to do is stuff it full of frites. I personally like to make and bake my own with olive oil in the oven. This makes for a really fresh French fry that, if you like them crunchy as I do, you can get very crisp. However, I make a very simple French fry just seasoned with salt and a little pepper; all of the spices in the meguez provide enough flavor. A little Dijon mustard completes the sandwich.
C’est si bon!