Bangers and mash

I actually wasn’t even going to write about what we are having for dinner today because it’s so run-of-the-mill. I hardly think anyone will care to read about it. After running over the menu this morning though, I changed my mind. I’m not a trained chef, I’m not a restaurateur, I’m not a socialite with a cook. I’m a mom with 3 kids and a dog and a cat, a whole lot of carpools and a not entirely adequate kitchen. Sometimes we eat boring food here, and if I pretend I never do that, what kind of a blog is this? A guilt inducing Martha Stewart blog? I hope not. I ‘m just trying to keep it real.

Unless you’re a Brit, or a descendant of a Brit or an Anglophile, you might not know what bangers and mash means. It’s British for sausages and mashed potatoes. Bangers aren’t just any old sausage though. They’re pork with bread crumbs and very mild spices – if they are spiced at all. I am sure you must be thinking: why would anyone want to eat those, they sound so bland and stodgy?! I tell you, if you haven’t been served bangers and mash by your Norwegian-British grandmother (who did a very nice job with it) it might be hard to understand why this is just right on certain evenings. Bangers should be mild and moist, almost creamy, on the inside, in a crisp and caramelized casing.  The mash should be rich and not too wet or soft, with a melted puddle of butter on top. A little salt and a gentle burn of pepper.  With bangers and mash, there is very little planning or shopping or even cooking involved. Kids and grown-ups will like this – unless they’re just being difficult. Sausages and mash go well with beer or a glass of young red wine. I like mine with a strong and slightly sweet mustard that comes from Sweden (which sounds so impressively cultural until I add that we actually buy it at IKEA – I told you this would be run-of-the-mill)

One little problem: bangers are hard to get. The Whole Foods near my house sells, very occasionally, something they like to call bangers. Ha! Sometimes I buy them but they are not bangers.  Sometimes they’re quite spicy which is to say they have a whisper of red chile in them. Even the merest breath of heat strikes the wrong note in a banger. Whole Foods* didn’t even have mild Italian pork sausages today – so tonight we are having – sigh – not bangers, but lamb and feta sausages. With mash. And steamed broccoli. (My granny would have served cauliflower cheese and steamed carrots and peas, but it’s crazy Thursday and I say to hell with it)

Menu: So…I guess what we are having is sausages and mashed potatoes and broccoli. There’s no dressing that up.

The game plan and the recipes are the same because there are no recipes here. Isn’t that kind of a relief? You buy the number of sausages to match the number of people you are serving, the same for the russet potatoes, and a large bunch of broccoli to steam.

The butcher would tell you to cook the sausages on medium heat on the stove in a skillet. I say that is just one more thing to pay attention to. Here’s what I would do:

  • Preheat the oven to 400F – 2 hours before you want to eat.
  • Scrub the potatoes and pierce them in several places with a fork. Brush or spray with olive oil if you like to eat the skins. Set the potatoes right on the oven rack.
  • 40 minutes before you want to eat, put a splash of vegetable oil in a roasting pan and add the sausages. Pop them in the oven next to the potatoes.
  • Rinse and trim the broccoli and put it in a steamer with water in it, on the stove.
  • No less than an hour and a half after you put them in the oven, remove the potatoes. Split them open and carefully (so as not to burn your fingers) scrape the flesh into a bowl. In the microwave heat up milk and butter until the butter is mostly melted – I would say 1/2-3/4 cup milk to 4 large russets and 3-4 walnut sized pieces of butter – but I like my mashed potatoes richly mashed.  Mash them up with a potato masher.  If you like to eat the skins now that they are nicely crisp, sprinkle them with sea salt and eat them up.
  • 10 minutes before you want to eat, start the heat under the broccoli.  Check on it after 7 minutes.  Personally, I would serve the broccoli with mayonnaise to which I have added lemon juice and one small grated clove of garlic, but I come from a mayonnaise eating family.

To make this menu even more ridiculously easy, just serve baked potatoes and steamed peas.  Of course you didn’t hear that from me.  Which is not to say I would never make that – of course I would.   I just wouldn’t write about it!

*Just a word about sausages and Whole Foods:  This may not be true at all Whole Foods in all cities, but here in Seattle they make organic house made sausages. I have to say that they are the worst  house made sausages I have ever had: bangers, Italian, chicken, Thai – you name it – all bad. They are unsubtly spiced; they are too dry; they are too weird. If you can go anywhere else to buy a house made sausage, I would, even if it is just to try their product and see what it is like. I like A&J Meats on Queen Anne. Sadly the Metropolitan Market up there is over-priced and understocked, so I rarely do all my shopping on the top of Queen Anne.  Next time I am at A&J though, I am going to beg them to make a batch of real English style bangers and to please call me when they are done. I would gladly drive all the way across town for some decent bangers – even if it does mess up the whole idea of an easy dinner on a busy day.

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