Harissa is the New Chipotle

1 06 2009

For June, instead of focusing on a French region, I’ve decided to cover some of the regions outside France that have influence on or have been influenced by French cuisine.  First off, the cuisine of the Maghreb, which comprises Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.  The traditional dishes of these former French colonies in North Africa are not at all hard to find or make in Paris.  Couscous is a staple of the modern French diet, and the once-exotic flavors of preserved lemons and harissa (a paste of ground chilis and other spices) are now relatively commonplace.

Hand-delivered harissa, Handmade merguez

I happen to work with a guy from Tunisia, and when I expressed an interest in spicy foods, harissa in particular, he offered to bring me some handmade harissa direct from the source.  How could I refuse?  Opening it, I was struck by its deep reddish-brown color and spicy-smoky scent.  This was a far cry from the bright orange condiment I see so often in Paris.  And it tastes wonderful.  Spicy, yes, but also rich and smoky with a pleasant deep sweetness.  Sound anything like everyone’s favorite smoked jalapeños?

On a recent trip to our closest Halal butcher (It bears repeating that those Halal guys really know their way around a roast chicken!), I noticed that they had handmade merguez for sale.  Merguez, for the uninitiated, is a spicy lamb sausage originating from, where else, North Africa.  So our Sunday morning meal was a done deal.  Merguez, scrambled eggs, and harissa – Breakfast of Champions!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.




5 responses

2 06 2009

I am a big fan of harissa. We used to use it at the restaurant to spice up our gazpacho for the bar (for Bloody Marys (Maries? Somehow, that just seems wrong). The kind we used to get came in wee yellow cans with some sort of Arabic-type writing on them. Good stuff. I love the depth of color in the picture there–beautiful! I wish I had been at your place for breakfast–I might still be eating right now:)

2 06 2009

I love merguez and harissa! That homemade stuff looks amazing. I’m looking forward to this month 😉

2 06 2009

pastrychef – Brilliant! Harissa Bloody Marys (I know what you mean)!

Hopie – It is fantastic. Just remembered I was going to bring it to your house to babysit – d’oh!

4 06 2009

Damn! Well you’ll just have to invite me over for some when you get back 😉

11 06 2009

I just made my first harissa a few weeks ago, and am totally smitten. I used a recipe from Saveur, so I think that can (I hope) speak to its authentic-ness. I’m adoring it on eggs and stirred into couscous with chopped tomatoes, too.

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