Everyone gets a kick out of the rather silly names of some traditional British food names. Spotted Dick. Toad in the Hole. Bubble and Squeak. And Bangers and Mash. The mash part is pretty obvious (mashed potatoes). Bangers are sausages, and the term supposedly comes from a time when cheap sausages would explode in a hot pan making a bang. I love a good plate of bangers and mash, but too often what you get is not a very good plate. Pubs that have turned to chain restaurants, my old college dining hall, some touristy restaurants serve up tepid, lumpy mash that may very well be instant and fatty, flavorless sausages with gravy made from a mix. That, I do not like. But when treated properly, a hearty dinner of really good sausages, creamy mash and rich gravy is a sight to behold. So I have worked over the years to develop a really good bangers and mash dish.
And here is my Irish influenced version of this dish, using good Irish bangers and a gravy redolent with Guinness. The mash blends potatoes and earthy parsnips with a tangy dash of Irish cheddar cheese. Crème fraiche adds silkiness without an overpowering edge, but you could use sour cream. Around St. Patrick’s Day, I find Irish bangers on the sausage counter of good markets. Check with a local butcher if you have one – they often whip them up for St. Patrick’s as well. Any good soft pork sausage will do. Bratwurst is a good substitute, or even a mild Italian. You want links of soft sausage in casing, not a harder product like kielbasa or smoked sausage.
Irish Bangers and Mash with Guinness Onion Gravy
- For the Mash:
1 lb Parsnips (About 4)
1 lb Russet Potatoes (About 2)
4 cloves of garlic
4 cups of chicken stock
3/4 Cup Creme’ Fraiche
3/4 Cup grated Irish aged cheddar cheese
2 Tablespoons butter
- For the Gravy
3 Tablespoons Butter
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon English mustard powder
1 cup Guinness
1 cup beef broth
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper
4 Irish Banger sausages, or any good fresh pork sausages like bratwurst or mild Italian
- FOR THE MASH
Peel the parsnips and potatoes and cut into chunks of roughly the same size. Peel the garlic cloves. Place them all in a large, deep skillet and pour over the chicken broth and a good pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cook until the parsnips and potatoes are both very soft when pierced with a knife. Drain, then transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment to break them up, then add the crème fraiche and grated cheese and beat until smooth. Beat in the butter and season with salt to taste. If not serving immediately. Spread the potatoes in a baking dish. The potatoes can be kept warm in a low oven, or can be covered and refrigerated for a few hours and reheated in the low oven with a little milk drizzled on top.
- FOR THE GRAVY
Melt the butter over medium high heat in large, deep skillet. Add the diced onion and cook, stirring frequently, until they are soft and glassy and beginning to brown. Sprinkle over the brown sugar and stir to combine. Cook, still stirring, until the onions are soft and caramelized, but not sticking to the bottom of the pan, 12 – 15 minutes. Sprinkle over the flour and mustard powder and stir until no dry flour is visible, then pour in the Guinness and beef stock and stir well. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the gravy has thickened. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce and season well with salt and lots of ground black pepper. Cover the pot and keep warm.
- FOR THE SAUSAGES
Put the sausages in a deep skillet and add water to come halfway up the sides of the sausages. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then cover, reduce the heat and simmer until cooked through, about 15 minutes (the sausages should reach an internal temperature of 155°). Uncover the pan and cook until the liquid is evaporated, carefully turning the sausages with tongs to brown them on all sides.
- Serve immediately on top of the mashed potatoes and smothered in the gravy.