Merguez Sausage With Chickpeas, Dried and Fresh

"Because I grew up overseas, this dish really tugs at my heartstrings," says Ben Nerenhausen, executive chef of Mistral in Princeton. "The exotic harissa paste packs a big flavor punch. The different textures of the fresh and dried chickpeas contrast nicely with the rich and gamey sausage. I like to pair it with a sheep's milk cheese and lots of herbs that really bring out the lamb flavor."

Merguez Sausage With Chickpeas, Dried and Fresh, from chef Ben Nerenhausen at Mistral in Princeton.
Photo by Michael Persico

Ingredients

To make the sausage:
1425 grams lamb shoulder
300 g lamb back fat
20 g cumin
5 g coriander seed
5 g black pepper
10 g fennel seed
20 g smoked paprika
1 g chili flakes
150 g roasted red peppers
25 g dried guajillo peppers
40 g garlic
1 whole lemon, zested
30 g salt
1 hank lamb intestines (casings)

For the garnishes:

1 c fresh chick peas
1 c dried chick peas, soaking in water
2 whole fresh red peppers
2 whole limes
1 c vegetable stock
3 tbs unsalted butter
1 tb chopped fresh mint
1 tb chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
A dry, aged sheep’s-milk cheese such as Oldwick Shepherd from Valley Shepherd Creamery
Fresh pea tendrils

For the harissa:
250 g dried guajillo chilies
450 g roasted red peppers, peeled
30 g garlic
20 g caraway
20 g cumin
20 g coriander
3 g chili flakes
1 whole lemon, juiced
15 g salt
50 g olive oil
15 g sugar
1 whole thai chili

Procedure

For the sausage:
1) Grind lamb and fat in a grinder.
2) Purée peppers and spices in a food processor.
3) Mix pepper spice paste with ground lamb and fat.
4) Place meat mixture into a piping bag fitted with a pastry tip small enough to fit into the end of the lamb casings.
5) Pipe 3-inch links, while keeping links taut and void of air bubbles.
6) Place links on grill or skillet and cook 2-3 minutes per side until done.

For the garnishes (ragu):

1) Blanch fresh chickpeas in boiling salted water for 30 seconds, or until tender.
2) Cook dried chickpeas in simmering salted water for 45 minutes to an hour, or until tender.
3) Roast red peppers over an open flame until charred and black. Peel peppers, cut into small dice.
4) Place all cooked and fabricated peas and peppers into the vegetable stock to heat up.
5) Add butter and reduce to a glaze with the lime juice.
6) Right before serving, add herbs and season with salt and pepper.

For the harissa:
1) Purée all the ingredients in a food processor until very smooth.
2) Pass purée through a fine mesh sieve and reserve.

To Assemble:
1) Smear some harissa on each plate.
2) Place some chickpea and pepper ragu on top of the harissa.
3) Place two grilled sausages on top of the vegetable ragu.
4) Garnish with the cheese and pea tendrils.

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