The Comfort of Bangers and Mash

IMG_1684After the adventures of Bon Appetit and fried chicken last week, I decided to go for something a little more manageable this week.

For a long time, I’ve been wanting to try making bangers and mash, not because I think it would be particularly challenging, but because I like it – and I find that it’s difficult to find a place in New York that really, truly understands the flavor (or, rather, lack thereof) of a good bangers & mash dish.

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I know, I know, most people will tell you that the lack of flavor is exactly why you don’t see it on many menus outside of an English pub – and why you don’t need to be making it at home.  But I scoff at this argument.  Sometimes I just want a plate where the primary ingredient is potato, dammit.

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The first step for this week was to figure out how to make it.  I’ve made mashed potatoes many times – check.  And I was fairly certain I could cook sausages without much trouble – double check.  But I still needed a recipe to master the gravy & onions (left) that separate “bangers & mash” from plain old “mashed potatoes & sausages.”

None of my cookbooks or usual websites had anything that seemed promising, so I had to resort to a basic Google search.  After quite a bit of weeding through questionable recipes, I came across one from Williams Sonoma (I didn’t even know they had free recipes) that seemed to match what I was looking for (specifically – a short cook time, few ingredients, and positive reviews).

The second step was the crucial one – finding the perfect bangers.  Not sausages.  Bangers.  Luckily, I knew just where to go – Meyers of Keswick on Hudson Street.

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I ventured to Meyers for the first time shortly after I moved to NYC.  It was a fun way to remember my time in the UK, and stock up on my favorite biscuits and sweets.  But I’ve never tried their fresh foods, hence my excitement for this week’s recipe.  On my way home from work, I stopped at Meyers to pick up the bangers – and some snacks too, of course.

With beer, sausages and a recipe in hand, I was ready to go.  As I had anticipated, the meal came together very quickly (I can see why its a go-to in pubs).  The bangers – drizzled with oil – baked in the oven while the potatoes boiled and the onions (for the gravy) simmered in butter.  Without much effort on my part, all three ingredients were ready at almost the same time.

When Mark sat down and said, “How do you plate this?” I got a little over excited by the idea that this was his first “bangers & mash” experience.  I gladly put both of our dishes together: potatoes, topped with bangers, topped with onions – and a side of English ale, of course.  I’m not sure he was as impressed as I would have liked.  But then again, it IS just potatoes and sausages.

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From the first bite, I knew the meal met my criteria.  It didn’t have mind-blowing flavor, to say the least.  But it tasted authentic.  No, I probably won’t make it all the time, but it’s a quick fix for a pub food craving.

And truth be told, I can’t take much credit for this week’s minor success anyway.  Yes, the potatoes and the gravy tasted great, but it was the bangers that took me back to an old favorite, The Castle Inn.   When Mark asked, “So what is it that makes a banger taste different than just sausages?”,  I replied with an honest answer: “I have no idea.” And that’s where the conversation ended.  We opted not to do any additional research on this one.  I mean, do we really want to know how sausage is made?

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