Mangoes & Olives, WTF? Merguez Burgers with Olive Chimichurri, Fries and Mango Ketchup

by Sarah on April 29, 2010

I’m a member of a dinner group where the basic premise is to get together every so often and eat some good food. The unspoken premise is to try to outcook everyone else in the dinner group. Oh, wait. Maybe that’s just me. I tend to get a little competitive with these things.  (Last year’s dinner included the Country Terrine-remember that?)  This year we decided, for some stupid reason, to draw our focus ingredients out of a hat, a la Iron Chef.  I drew mangoes-and-fucking-olives.  How in the hell do you combine mangoes and olives for a full meal and have them compliment each other?  Yeah, I didn’t really know, either.

Finally, after 3 months of quiet contemplation, and not-so-quiet bitch sessions, I had the menu.  On the Friday before the Sunday event.  Nothing like leaving things to the last minute, eh?

To start, we made mango bellinis and panko-crusted and deep fried anchovy-stuffed olives.  I utterly failed in my documentation of these items, however, though I will post the recipes.  The olives were yummy, but I made a huge mess with the overflowing champagne.  I guess you can’t stir champagne with fruit puree in it.

First course:  Mango and sliced proscuitto with a salad (olive oil vinaigrette, yo).  Not terribly exciting, but I do like the salty/sweet thing–similar to the famous dish with melon and proscuitto.  It was a lovely 80* springtime Sacramento day and a cold salad was nice to start with.

Entree:  Homemade merguez burgers with an olive chimichurri on brioche buns.  Served with fries and mango ketchup.  Let’s make the merguez, shall we?  You’ll need ground lamb, fennel pollen, cinnamon, cumin, ground coriander, harissa and garlic.  Obviously I made quite a lot, but you could easily halve this recipe or even put the finished merguez in the freezer.  Sacramentans-Corti Bros ground this lamb fresh for me, at only $4.99 per pound.  It was delicious.

Put all the spices in with the meat and mix it thoroughly.  No salt or pepper.

How do you know there’s enough seasoning?  Well, you have to cook a little and try it.  I did, and ended up doubling the amount of spice I’d originally put in.  It’s worth the effort to take this step.  At this point, I put my merguez in an airtight container and let it sit overnight in the fridge to let the flavors meld.

Next, we’ll get started on the mango ketchup.  Heat up a Tbsp of oil, and saute some red onion, red and yellow bell pepper, garlic.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook until the mixture is soft, about 7 minutes.

Cut mangoes into chunks.  You know this trick right?  Cut the mango along the side of the pit, then score the mango’s flesh, not through the skin.

Then turn it inside out and just peel off the chunks.  It’s the easiest way.

Oh look, here’s a picture of the rest of the ingredients!  Add in the mangoes, tomato paste, vinegar and brown sugar.

Cook this mixture until it is soft and syrupy, about 10-15 minutes.  Pour the mixture into a blender and mix until it is a smooth puree and resembles ketchup.

Orange ketchup!

Now it’s time to make  the olive chimichurri to top the burgers with.

I sauteed the onion and garlic first so they wouldn’t be so overpowering.

Then into the food processor with kalamata and green olives, a few roasted red bell peppers, lots of parsley, the sauteed garlic and onion, a pinch of red pepper flakes and olive oil.  Whiz until finely chopped, but not a paste.

Taste as you go for seasoning!  The biggest tip I can ever give you is to taste your food.  In this case, my chimichurri needed some brightness from acid.  I poured in a Tbsp or so of sherry vinegar.

The finished product.  Finely chopped, but not a smooth paste.

To finish:  Shape merguez into patties, about 6 oz. each.  Season both sides with salt and pepper.  Make your husband grill them.  Or do it yourself, whichever.  I feel these are best at medium-rare.  Medium at most.   These would be ok broiled or cooked in a grill or cast iron pan, too.  Brush those buns with some olive oil and throw those on the grill too–nothing’s nicer than a burger roll with a nice crispy interior and soft squishy exterior.

Put ‘em together!  Burger on bottom bun.  Smear top of burger with a healthy amount of the olive chimichurri and a handful of greens (I used the herb salad available at Trader Joe’s).  Top with the brioche roll.

Dig in!

For the fries, I follow the method in the Les Halles cookbook.  Peel the potatoes (russets, please) and cut them into skinny sticks.  Soak them in ice-cold water for a few.  Blanch fries in 280* oil so that the interiors are cooked, about 6 to 8 minutes.  They will be soft and will be a semi-translucent white.  Heat the oil to 375* and fry the blanched fries for 3-4 minutes until crispy and golden brown.  Toss the drained fries in a big bowl with salt and serve immediately.  Do not skip any of these steps, you will have inferior fries.  Believe me.

So.  I managed to take stupid mangoes and olives and make a delightful Sunday afternoon lamb burger.  This is a meal I’d actually make again.  You should make it too!

To be continued….Mango and olive dessert?


Merguez Burgers with Olive Chimichurri

6 lbs. ground lamb

1/4 cup harissa

4 Tbsp fennel pollen (if unavailable, use toasted fennel seed)

1 small head garlic, minced

3 Tbsp ground cumin

3 Tbsp ground coriander

4 tsp ground cinnamon

olive chimichurri (recipe follows)

salad greens (I used Trader Joe’s “herb salad”)

15 good quality hamburger rolls


Mix together the lamb, garlic, harissa and spices with your hands until it is thoroughly mixed.  To test for seasoning, make a small patty with 2 Tbsp of meat mixture and fry.  Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.  Do not add salt or pepper to the merguez.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours so the flavors come together.

Form 6 oz. patties, making them the same size as your rolls.  Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.  Grill over hot coals until the burgers are medium rare to medium.  You can alternately broil or fry these burgers.

Brush rolls with olive oil and toast the interiors on the grill.

To assemble:  Place burger on bottom roll.  Smear 2-3 Tbsp olive chimichurri (recipe follows) on top of burger, then add a handful of greens.  Top with top half of roll.

Makes 15 6-oz. burgers


Olive Chimichurri Sauce

1/2 red onion, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 bunch flat leaf parsley

1/4 cup green olives with pimiento

2/3 cup kalamata olives, pitted

1/4 cup roasted red bell pepper, drained

2 Tbsp sherry vinegar

1 cup good quality olive oil


Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a saute pan.  Add onion and garlic and cook until softened.

Put all ingredients into a food processor.  Pulse until it is finely chopped but not pasty.  Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.  Can be made in advance and will keep refrigerated for a week or two.


Les Halles’ Frites

  • 4 Idaho potatoes, big, long ones
  • 2 quarts/2.25 liters or more peanut oil to fill fryer (or pot)
  • table salt

Fill a large bowl with ice water. Peel the potatoes and cut them into ½-inch- (1-cm-) thick sticks. Put them immediately into the bowl of ice water to keep them from oxidizing. Leave them in the water anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight, then rinse well in cold water to take out much of the starch.

In a deep fryer or heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil to 280°F (140°C). Cook the potatoes in batches, about 6 to 8 minutes for each batch, until they are soft and their color has paled from opaque white to a semitranslucent white. Do not get impatient and yank them out early. Remove them from the oil with the skimmer or wire basket and spread evenly on the baking sheet. Let them rest at least 15 minutes.

Bring the oil up to 375°F (190°C). No hotter, no cooler. Fry the blanched potatoes in batches for 2 to 3 minutes each, or until they are crispy and golden brown. Remove from the oil with the skimmer or wire basket, shake off the excess oil, and…

…immediately drop the fries into the other large bowl, which has been lined with a clean, dry towel. Add salt to taste and whip out the towel. Toss the fries around in the bowl and serve while still hot.

Serves 4


Mango Ketchup

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 red onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 each red and yellow bell pepper

4 ripe mangoes, cut into pieces

3 Tbsp tomato paste

2 Tbsp cider vinegar

2 Tbsp brown sugar


In a saucepan, saute the onion, garlic and bell peppers in the oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the mangoes, tomato paste, vinegar and sugar.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 13 minutes, or until the mixture is a bit syrupy.  You can add a bit of water, if the mixture appears to be sticking to the pan.

Pour the mixture into a blender and mix until smooth and ketchupy.  Cool thoroughly.  Taste for seasoning.  Add salt and pepper if needed.

Makes about 2 cups.


Mango Bellini

1 mango, cut into chunks

1 bottle sparkling wine, champagne or Prosecco


Puree mango in a blender.  Put a spoonful of mango puree into a champagne flute.  Top with champagne.

*The mango puree makes the champagne fizz up like crazy.  Pour it in SLOWLY.*


Panko-Crusted and Deep Fried Anchovy-Stuffed Olives

1-2 cans anchovy-stuffed olives

1 cup flour

1 egg

1 cup panko bread crumbs

oil, for frying


Heat oil to 375*.

Set up breading station:  3 separate bowls for flour, egg, and panko.

Drain olives.  Dip a handful at a time into the flour, then egg, then panko.  Place them on a rack until you are ready to fry them.  Continue with breading the olives until they are done.

Fry the olives for just long enough that the crumbs turn golden brown.  Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.  Serve immediately.

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