One of the things that has stuck with me most from my trip to England some years ago was the unique names used for many traditional British dishes. There is bubble and squeak, which is potatoes and cabbage cooked together. Toad in the hole is a dish of sausages baked in a batter. Spotted dick is a bread pudding with raisins, drowned in custard. And one of my favorites is bangers and mash, sausages with mashed potatoes. All these dishes are commonly served in pubs all around England.
Traditionally, bangers and mash uses pork sausage or long coiled Cumberland sausage, slathered in a rich onion gravy. It's a classic homey meal that never fails to satisfy a hearty appetite. Nowadays, for the sake of reinvention, there are some gourmet incarnations. Other types of sausages can be used and the gravy can vary. Sometimes, it's served with fried onions. My first time tasting the dish was at a restaurant in Brighton that served a Frenchified version with a red wine sauce and a topping of fried leeks. It was probably one of the best versions of the dish I had during my time studying abroad.
This recipe is my attempt at recreating that fateful dish. My sauce though is more like a classic gravy with a little wine added for flavor and color. I also fry a julienned leek, which adds a slight onion flavor as well as some interesting texture to the finished dish. The mashed potatoes couldn't be any more authentic with simply butter and cream. It's a comforting meal made for hearty eaters, a perfect winter stick-to-your ribs kind of meal.
Bangers and Mash with Red-Wine Gravy and Frizzled Leeks
for the frizzled leeks:
2 small leeks
fine sea salt
for the mash:
2 pounds Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
fine sea salt
4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup heavy cream
for the bangers and red-wine gravy:
6 pork sausages
2 large shallots, minced
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups chicken broth
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
To make frizzled leeks, trim leeks, discarding roots and greens. Cut into 2-inch lengths. Cut in half lengthwise and slice into julienne strips. Rinse in a colander under running water. Pat dry between paper towels.
Warm 1 to 2 inches of oil in a large pot set over medium-high heat. The temperature of the oil should register around 350 degrees F.
Once oil is hot, fry leeks in batches for 1/2 minute. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a tray lined with paper towels to drain. Season with salt.
To make mashed potatoes, add cubed potatoes to saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil; lower to a simmer. Cook until knife tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain potatoes. Mash with butter. Add cream a little at a time, until mixture is smooth.
While potatoes boil, cook the sausages. Warm 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet or sauté pan set over medium-high heat. Sear the sausages all over until brown. Remove to a plate. Wipe out pan. Refresh pan with 1 tablespoon oil. Add shallots, sauté until translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes. Deglaze pan with wine. Add broth and bring to a boil. Return sausages and any juices to pan. Reduce to a simmer. Cook, covered, until sausages are cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes.
To make gravy, remove sausages to a plate. Increase heat to high to reduce the gravy by a third. To thicken, knead butter and flour into a paste. Add to pan and stir constantly until the sauce thickens. Continue to cook for a few minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Return sausages to pan and rewarm.
To serve, place a spoonful of mash on each plate. Add 1 or 2 sausages. Spoon gravy over bangers and mash. Garnish with frizzled leeks. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.