The Germans make 1200 kinds of sausages from bratwurst to weisswurst. But in New York, you’d swear that there are only two kinds of pork sausages: Hot Italian and Sweet Italian. The only other pork sausages you can reliably find are breakfast sausages and even then, they never measure up to the flavor of the genuine Irish or English article. These sausages are called “bangers” because in World War II their pork count went down while their water content rose so when they hit a hot pan, they exploded. And who can ever forget Peter Sellers with his singing partner, none other than Sophia Loren, belting out “Bangers and Mash”. She sang “No wonder you’re so bony Joe, and skinny as a rake” to which he sang back “Well then, give us a bash at the bangers and mash me mother used to make.”
You don’t remember that one? Well neither do I. But I do have amazing food memories of the taste of Bangers, Mash and Onion Gravy. To rekindle those memories, I used to have to travel downtown 30 blocks to Esposito Pork Shop or even further downtown to Meyers of Keswick, the tiny British Grocery in the Village. There I can reliably find glorious pork sausages seasoned with just a little sage, nutmeg, salt and pepper. But what did I spy at Trader Joe’s but these: Irish Bangers! They’re just there for the season and quite a bargain at 4.49! Armed with these, I’m able to bring my Bangers, Mash and Onion Gravy together and in the nick of time for St. Patrick’s Day.
This is really good, honest pub food. As the Gastro Pub movement took hold in Britain and Ireland, modern day Bangers and Mash started showing up on their menus in new disguises. Exotic sausages like Spanish Merguez are teamed up with Mashes of Celery Root or Squash. But give me the real thing. Even if the recipe comes from that very non-British Institution, Williams-Sonoma! It came from their 2008 cookbook, “A Taste of the World” (Gold Street Press). Their recipe yielded mahogany brown sausages, butter-y creamy mashed mashed potatoes and a red onion gravy that’s all very easy to make. There’s only one disappointment. Since the sausages roast in the oven, they don’t ‘bang’ at all! But aside from that, this is a treat! Here is the recipe.
Bangers and Mash and Red Onion Gravy
A celebration of the best of Irish cooking--pure pork sausages, creamy mashed potatoes and a rich red onion gravy.
- 2 lb. good-quality bangers or pork sausages
- 1 Tbs. sunflower oil
- For the mash:
- 2 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1/3 cup milk
- 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
- For the gravy:
- 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 2 red onions, halved and finely sliced
- 1 1/2 tsp. all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
- 1 cup full-bodied red wine, such as Shiraz
- 1 cup chicken or beef stock
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste.
- Step 1 Preheat an oven to 400°F
- Step 2 Place the sausages in a roasting pan, drizzle with the sunflower oil and toss to coat. Spread the sausages out in a single layer and bake, turning them after 15 minutes, until evenly colored and crispy brown, about 30 minutes.
- Step 3 Meanwhile, make the mash: Peel the potatoes and cut them into large chunks. Place in a saucepan with water to cover, salt the water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes. Drain, cover with a kitchen towel and let stand until dry, about 5 minutes. In the same pan over medium-high heat, combine the milk and butter and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and set aside. Pass the potatoes through a ricer or place in a bowl and mash with a potato masher. Add the hot milk mixture and beat until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
- Step 4 To make the gravy, in a wide, shallow nonreactive saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter with the olive oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they are meltingly soft, about 20 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook until lightly colored, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and cook until evaporated. Stir in the red wine and stock, increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low and simmer until a rich sauce forms, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Step 5 Divide the sausages and mash among individual plates. Spoon some of the gravy on top and serve immediately. Pass the remaining gravy at the table.