Irish-Italian fusion, or bangers & mash with a twist

bangersmashIt’s no secret that there are lots of Irish pubs in Boston, some (but definitely not all) of which serve very good food. One of our favorites is the Black Rose, near Faneuil Hall, which serves a really good plate of “bangers & mash” – basically a pile of silky mashed potatoes, a couple of sausages and plenty of delicious onion gravy. Comfort food at its very best.

Unfortunately, one of the most obvious downsides of traditional “comfort” Irish cooking—most comfort foods, for that matter—is the lack of vegetables (root veg notwithstanding).

A local Italian food shop near our condo, Capone’s, makes and sells their own sausage. All the varieties we’ve tried are excellent, including the Italian sausage. But one of our favorites is the chipotle sausage, which is spicy and includes asiago cheese, two things we clearly love.

cotesdurhoneWanting to do something different one day with the sausage than just add it to a tomato sauce over pasta, I decided to use potatoes, going with a sort of “bangers & mash” treatment. The Italian flair comes in with the addition of red peppers, mushrooms and some red wine, as well as roasted garlic in the mash. I’m not quite sure what to call it, but this is the delicious result.

Chipotle “bangers & mash”

You could certainly use regular sweet or hot Italian sausages for this dish, if you prefer or if you can’t find chipotle sausages (although Capone’s does ship). If using Italian sausages, replace the chipotle flakes with crushed red pepper, or eliminate it if you don’t like heat. Everyone has their own version of mashed potatoes, so if you have a recipe you love, use that instead, of course. But if you don’t add garlic to the potatoes, I’d suggest adding a couple of chopped cloves to the vegetables as you are sweating them.

This makes enough for 4 (or two very hungry people)

  • 1 head garlic
  • olive oil
  • about 2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, washed & cubed (peel if desired; I don’t)
  • whole milk, about 1/3 cup or more, as needed for mashing potatoes
  • 4 chipotle (or Italian-style) sausages
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, sliced
  • about 6 large or 12 small cremini (or white button) mushrooms, sliced
  • chipotle pepper flakes (or crushed red pepper flakes), about ½ tsp or to taste
  • oregano, about ½ tsp
  • dry red wine, about ½ cup (be sure to use something you’d like to drink; I used a Côtes du Rhône)
  • 1 T flour
  • 1 ½ cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • chopped cilantro (or parsley), if desired

Slice the top quarter inch off the head of garlic, then drizzle with a little olive oil and wrap in foil.  Place into a 350 oven for about an hour until the garlic is fragrant and soft. Set aside. (This can be done up to several hours in advance if needed.)

potatoesAdd potatoes to a large pot, cover with water, bring to a boil and cook until tender – altogether this will take about 45 minutes, depending how large your pot is.

While potatoes are coming to a boil, place the sausages on a sheet pan covered in foil. Prick all over with a fork so they don’t burst while cooking, and cook them in a 350 oven for about 30 minutes. When done, wrap them in the foil until they are ready to go into the gravy. (This can be done ahead, if desired; if holding sausages longer than a half hour, place in fridge until ready to add to gravy.)

vegchopWhile potatoes and sausages are cooking, place a large skillet over medium high heat. Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, and when very hot add the vegetables. As they begin to sweat, add a couple of pinches of salt, and the chipotle (or crushed red pepper) flake and oregano. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently to be sure they don’t stick. Add in the red wine, and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables, and then stir to coat everything; the pan may get a little dry, this is OK. Add in the stock, slowly and while stirring. Bring to a gentle boil then turn the heat down to low to stay warm.

vegsauteRemove the sausages from the foil, and slice them. I prefer to slice each sausage lengthwise, but if you’d rather slice across in rounds, go for it.  Add them to the pan of gravy, along with any accumulated juices from the foil. Keep pan over low heat to stay warm while you finish the potatoes. (If you had cooked the sausages earlier and they are cold from the fridge, you will want to be sure they are warmed through in the hot gravy.)

When potatoes are tender, drain and return them to pot. Squeeze the head of garlic into the potatoes, getting as much of the garlic out as you can. Drizzle in a little olive oil and mash to desired consistency. Add in the milk, a little at a time, and continue mashing to get the texture you want. Add salt & pepper to taste.

Serve the sausages and gravy over the potatoes, garnished with a little cilantro or parsley, if desired.

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