Who knew that a spicy lamb sausage from northern Africa would get along so well with collard greens, a staple of Southern soul food? Knowing that sausages and greens are a natural combination, I trusted this recipe from Epicurious.com, which cooks the greens quickly by blanching then braising them with some of the cooking liquid, rather than the long, slow preparation I'm familiar with.
Collards are actually found all over the world, turns out, including in a garlicky soup in Egypt. The rest of the recipe is just a matter of cooking couscous and browning the sausages--if merguez is difficult to find, a hot Italian sausage would substitute well, or even a sweet one. The real star is the greens: cooked with onion and garlic, they're amped up with a hit of cumin and cinnamon, which contrasts with the sweet currants to produce some of the most delicious greens I've eaten in awhile.
Merguez Sausage with Collards and Couscous
- 2 pounds collard greens, stemmed
- 1 1/2 pounds merguez sausage links
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup dried currants
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 10 ounces plain couscous, cooked according to package directions
In a medium pot, bring plenty of salty water to boil. Stack the stemmed collard leaves and cut them crosswise into 1-inch strips. Lower the collard greens into the boiling water and cook for a couple minutes, until beginning to soften, then drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, then add the crushed red pepper, garlic, cumin and cinnamon. Cook for a minute or so to meld the spices, then add the collard greens and continue cooking for a few more minutes. Stir in the currants and cooking liquid and bring to a simmer; cook, partially covered, until the liquid has reduced and clings to the leaves without puddling. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
In the meantime, place the sausages plus water in a large skillet and turn the heat to medium. Cook until the water evaporates and renders the sausage fat into the skillet, then continue cooking as the sausages brown, about 10-12 minutes. Depending on the fat content of the sausages, a little more oil in the pan may be necessary.
Cook the cous cous according to package directions and stir in the butter. Serve topped with the collard greens and sausage.