Monday, April 2, 2012

A visit to April Bloomfield’s Spotted Pig and a recipe for the great British delicacy Bangers and Mash

         The weather on America’s East Coast has been nothing short of bizaare this whole winter.   When I boarded the plane to come home from St. Barth, the temperature there was 81 degrees.  When I arrived in Newark the temperature was 75 degrees.  We could have saved a small fortune by opening the pool early out at the beach and staying put.  Except that this week there have been freezing temperatures to our north.  In any event, I think there’s a short window of opportunity to put some comfort on the table and today’s dish is a perfect example of just that. It's Bangers and Mash, true British comfort food and my is it good!
Dimity Jones
        I first got the recipe from an Australian blogger I follow called Dimity Jones.  You can check out her blog on the list of blogs on the left hand side of this page.  Dimity first wrote this for her friend Barbara Fairchild, late of Bon Appetit magazine and now 
Dimity's Dish
the editor of the on-line magazine “Real Eats”.  Now Bangers and Mash is what the English have dubbed a dish of Pork sausages and mashed potatoes. The reason for the moniker “bangers” is because the sausages were packed with water so that when they went into a hot pan, they split and went “bang”.  Since I cooked my sausages entirely in the oven, if there was any banging, it was out of earshot. But the dish was a huge success. The lovely onion-y, beefy gravy coats the sausages which sink into the mashed potatoes. And oh what mashed potatoes! They’re light as all get out despite frightening amounts of cream and butter, the lovely scent of whole garlic and a cream infused with fresh thyme. They are the best mashed potatoes I have ever eaten. There are two secrets here.  The first is to use a ricer or food mill.  Forget that tired potato masher.  You will never achieve anything like the silky smoothness with one.  And the second secret is that the potatoes themselves should be as dry as possible.  The recipe follows.
         But did April Bloomfield work her way into the title of today’s post?  As anyone who regularly reads Chewing the Fat, I am a huge fan of Ms. Bloomfield’s gastro pub cooking at The Breslin in the Ace Hotel. Now it turns I am a huge fan of her earlier incarnation, “The Spotted Pig” at  314 West 11th St. (Tel: 212-620-0393).  And exactly how did I get there?  I actually made Bangers and Mash twice and not because I was in love with the potatoes. It was because, believe it or not, good unadulterated pork sausages are almost impossible to find. Every butcher, supermarket, gourmet shop has both sweet and hot versions of Italian sausage.  But those are loaded with seasonings completely at odds with British Bangers. 
         For the genuine article, I made my way down to the Village where there’s a store called Myers of Keswick which stocks all things British.  There among the Cornish Pasties and Onion pies, the salad cream and Marmite were perfectly beautiful unadulterated bangers. And they were very well priced too.  I timed my visit to coincide with lunch hour which is how I ended up at The Spotted Pig. 
The Spotted Pig's Grilled Cheese Sandwich
         The restaurant has been on the radar ever since it opened in 2004.  It was New York’s first gastro pub and it’s been charming diners ever since.  It’s a tiny place filled with bric-a-brac and the most amazing food.  I opted for the Grilled Cheese sandwich. This American classic is incredibly good here.  I am fairly the same sandwich at the Breslin owes a lot to its Village predecessor.  There, I was told, it was made with three kinds of cheeses.  It’s tangy and crisp, the cheese melted to perfection and the bread is sliced from a beautiful rustic loaf. I think I polished to whole thing off in about 5 minutes.  I can’t wait to go back.  But before I do, here’s the promised recipe for Bangers and Mash.   
Recipe for Bangers and Mash with Onion “Gravy”
Serves 4
4-5 medium to large Yukon Gold potatoes
1 pint of heavy cream
half a stick, and 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
3-4 whole peeled garlic, cut into halves
8 thick pork sausages
2 whole medium to large yellow onions, sliced finely
one teaspoon of raw or brown sugar
¼ cup of water
one tablespoon of flour
½ cup beef stock
Worcestershire sauce
teaspoon salt
pepper, to taste
For the mashed potato: Peel and boil in salted water 4 to 5 medium to large Yukon Gold Potatoes until tender.
Meanwhile put a separate medium to small heavy based saucepan, add to it: heavy cream, unsalted butter, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. Bring gently to a boil, and then turn the heat off. Let the cream mixture steep for 15 minutes or longer. Keep warm.

Once the potatoes are boiled, drain and let dry out. (The secret to making amazing mashed potatoes is to make them very dry before adding the cream liquid. If you need to, put them back over the heat, and stir without burning or browning to gently dry out).

To make the sausages: I didn’t follow Dimity’s recipe. Instead I noted how Myers of Keswick said to cook them.  Using a minimal amount of olive oil just to coat, put the sausages in a cast iron skillet.  In an oven pre-heated to 350 degrees, cook the sausages for 20 minutes.  Half way through, shake the pan so the sausages brown on all sides.

Meanwhile, add 2 tablespoons of more of unsalted butter and the yellow onions to the frypan,. Stir over medium heat until the onions are softened and fragrant, not browned. Add raw or brown sugar and about a quarter cup of water (and a few leaves of fresh thyme—optional). Add a tablespoon of all purpose flour and stir until nutty and just golden. 
Add about a half a cup or more of beef stock and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Stir until the gravy becomes thick, but still runny. Season with salt and pepper.

Put the cooked potatoes through a food mill into a bowl. Strain the cream mixture, and pour into the potatoes a little bit at a time, until you get the consistency you wish for your mash. You may not need all the liquid. Taste, and season more with salt and pepper, if necessary.

Pile up the mashed potatoes, add the gravy, the sausages and then more onion gravy over the top. Enjoy with a stout or any kind of beer if you want to be truly British.  I enjoyed a nice Cabernet with mine.


  1. Bangers and Mash, purely and simply a beautiful thing. The gravy looks fabulous and I'll try the drying of the potatoes, though I do not have the inclination or patience for a ricer. Makes the cheese sandwich look rather sad next to them, doesn't it? C: AND - are you kidding me on the prices on the menu at the Spotted Pig? Marvelous - order two of everything if they are going to tease me that way... C:

  2. Ana, I wish I could convince you to use the ricer or the food mill. The difference was incredible--creamier, fluffier with not so much a one single lump. Ambrosia! The prices are pretty standard for that kind of lunch in New York. And the place is always busy. MM

  3. The gravy looks incredible! Sausage and potatoes...this is my kind of meal!