Monday, November 12, 2012

How my love of boudin happened and what I did about it

Creole Country boudin made around the corner
I am 22 years old, standing in the kitchen of an house I am not quite occupying due to various and sundry domestic issues.  Having quit smoking the day before, I found myself trying not to kill my then-boyfriend 's son (and my then-boyfriend).  My head and stomach are both spinning from the nicotine patch that I'd later realize was much to strong for my low level love of and addiction to cigarettes.  In the skillet is Robert's answer to my request for dinner.  Wearily, I look at him and ask, "Is it supposed to look so bloated?"  He laughs at my disgust and obvious bad mood, assuring me that it is.  My picky, low-fat dieting, post-teenage angst years were barely behind me and it was obvious in the wrinkling of my nose and distrust of pork products.  At first bite, it was love and the rest is history...a 10 year long, rice and pork splattered history.  My relationship with boudin has far outlasted my relationship with Robert and cigarettes. 

May cultures have a variety of sausage called boudin.  There is a Caribbean sausage called "Boudin Antillas" which uses pigs blood and bread crumbs.  The French have Boudin Blanc, featuring chicken, ham and bread crumbs.  Traditionally served after Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, Boudin Blanc (according to the esteemed Larousse Gastronomique) is based on a milky gruel (sounds delicious, right?) to warm themselves.  I like to think some enterprising butcher had the idea to make a to-go version  by binding the gruel with eggs, adding finely ground pork and cooking it in moulds.  Other varieties that bear the Boudin Blanc label use everything from deboned chicken to sweetbreads to truffles and is pumped into cleaned intestines to archetypal sausage.
boudin and poached egg

The clever Cajuns make my favorite version, using rice and all of those tasty leftover pieces of the pig.  Recently I met a girl who grew up outside of Lafayette who told me of occasions of which her family would boil a pigs head after slaughter, not to make hogs head cheese, but to retrieve all of the meat from the skull for use in boudin.

A few years ago, annoyed with the lacking quality of commercial brands offered in grocery stores, I decided to try my hand at sausage making.  The first few times I used recipes I dug up online.  Over time, I've stopped depending on the Internet to tell me how to make boudin and developed my own recipe.  A warning to the faint of heart (when it comes to liver): mine has a very high liver to meat ratio.  I love the balance of the earthy, velvety liver with the more accessible, familiar pork shoulder.  If I could get my hands on other pig offal, I'd add those too.  For my most recent batch, I used pork shoulder from Bill Ryals of Rocking R Dairy, a farmer I work with at the Crescent City Farmers Market.  I purchased the liver from Hong Kong Market, as the Ryals didn't have pork liver available that day

Boudin production is a messy job.

Feel free to play with the rations of pork shoulder to liver.  Hate liver?  Go with all pork shoulder.  Somehow lucky enough to have access to pork kidneys?  Substitute an equal amount of the shoulder and liver for the kidney.

Before you start, here are a few things you should know:
  • This is very messy.  Whenever I make sausage, I end up having to clean it from my kitchen cabinets.  Just be ready for it, ok? 
  • Using a sausage stuffer can be a daunting activity.  It is easier with two people, but they both have to basically be saints.  Otherwise, it can be a relationship ending prospect.  Just trust me on this.
  • Purchasing pre-prepared sausage casings at the meat counter makes things much easier.  Whole Foods is always willing to sell me some, once they figure out what I want.
  • Take your time and enjoy the process.
  • Double the recipe so you have plenty to share!
Here is what you'll need:
1 1/2 lbs pork shoulder cubed (if it comes with a bone in it, save the bone for stock)
1 1/2 lb pork liver, cleaned of fat and sinews, cubed
1 small to medium onion chopped

melding flavors 

1 poblano pepper seeded and chopped (or if you want to cut down on the spice, substitute a bell pepper)
3 to 4 spice peppers (I used a mixture of heirloom jalapenos, orchid and some other random pepper)
3 celery stalks chopped
4 to 6 cloves of garlic
1 cup of fresh chopped parsley
3 1/2 tbs kosher salt3 tbs black or white pepper
1 1/2 tsp cayenne
a sprinkling of chili powder
7 cups of cooked white rice
Combine meat, veggies and spices and let sit overnight (covered, please!) in the fridge.

In a large pot, add water to the marinated mixture (enough to cover it by two inched) and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for an hour and a half to an hour and 45 minutes. 

Remove from the pot and reserve liquid (meat potlikker!) and let the meat mixture cool for about 20 minutes.  Next run through the coarse grind setting on a meat grinder (or chop by hand).

In a large bowl, combine rice with meat mixture and reserved liquid using a spatula.  Stir until all ingredients are evenly distributed and the liquid is mostly soaked into the rice-meat mixture. 
halfway there!
At this point, taste the mixture for seasonings and adjust to your liking. 

Happy with the outcome?  Now you can use it to stuff ... stuff.  Think pork chops, chickens, bell peppers, mushrooms ... you are only limited by your culinary imagination.  You can make it into boudin balls or feed it into natural casings using a sausage stuffer to create boudin links (buy the casings at the meat department in Whole Foods - be prepared to recieve quizical looks).  To prep boudin links, simmer in a little bit of water on the stove top, cook it on a grill or smoke it. 
If you are going to store it in the freezer, wrap the links in butcher paper and place in a freezer bag.
Want to learn more about the culinary history of boudin, visit the Southern Foodways Alliance's Boudin Trail site.  Also check out Boudin Link for a guide to where to find boudin. 
Happy Eating!