Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Boudin: A One of A Kind Louisiana Taste

So, what the %$#* is boudin.

First, we learn to pronounce. Say – Boo-Dan. Or like a Cajun, Boo-Deh.

What is the craze? Why are the recipes passed from generation to generation. What the hell am I talking about?

Boudin is a Cajun sausage, made by hand in South Louisiana, mainly by the Cajuns. It is a mixture of pork, rice, liver and spices. It’s the combination, process and amount of each of these ingredients that separate good boudin and the legendary stuff.

If this sounds wacko, it kinda is. Imagine rice dressing if you will, inside a sausage casing. Most Cajuns eat boudin one of two ways…. They either squeeze it out of one end into their mouths (like toothpaste through a tube), or slice it open and eat it like dressing. Either way, once you have had the real stuff… you’ll never forget it. It’s Cajun crack.

I grew up eating boudin in Baton Rouge like any other kid would go to McDonalds. That’s one thing that a Louisiana upbringing allows… lunches of fried catfish, boiled shrimp and fresh boudin. Local dives in my hometown feature daily dishes that have remained in their place for 40 years… red beans and rice, gumbo, shrimp and oyster poboys and loads of fresh seafood.

But boudin is special. First, you don’t find a lot of boudin in restaurants in Louisiana. You are more likely to find an amazing link at a gas station. No, really… a gas station (next to the cracklins… but that’s a separate blog).

The true masters of boudin are men who run gas stations, convenience stores and tire shops. They hunt and fish and cook… and share their recipes with all who care to fish a link out of a crock pot. They wrap it in foil and send you on your way.

There are seafood markets that also make the stuff. Tony’s Seafood, the largest seafood house in the southern United States invented the Boudin Ball some 15 years ago in Baton Rouge… imaging a rice dressing ball, fried like a hushpuppy. Today, they sell nearly 3000 a day…. 8000 a day during football weekends when LSU and Southern are in town. They also make crawfish boudin as well as crab and shrimp boudin.

So, for several years, I made boudin a passion…. and during this time, I stumbled upon the holy grail of boudin… that made at Jerry Lee’s Kwik Stop in Greenwell Springs, Louisiana.

Jerry Lee’s is just what it sounds… a tiny convenience store on a creek about 10 miles outside of Baton Rouge. You can get beverages, pop tarts, batteries and toilet paper. You can also pick up some sunflower seeds and an oil filer. But in the back is a commercial kitchen that simply makes the best boudin in the world. Period.

I was told about it several years ago, and brushed it off. I had tasted excellent stuff, and was sure it was all that. Truth be told, I was fairly sure that Tony’s Seafood was that place. I was told about Jerry Lee’s so many times that I couldn’t take it anymore. I made the drive, bought 3 links and headed home.

But the boudin never made it. I ate it in the parking lot. It was that good. Then I drove my wife there. She bought 2 links, and ate them in the parking lot. I went back in and bought another link. I ate it in the parking lot. See where I am going here?

Why is it so good? Because Jerry Lee uses very little liver… and just the right amount of ground pork and rice. His seasonings are delicate, and just right. It has a unique flavor that I have never grown tired of… perfect. The main problem is that once you have had it, the other stuff is average. Oh yea, I hate liver.

So by now, you are thinking, where can I get the stuff? Well, if you are traveling to Louisiana and want to make a few runs, use the link on the right side to locate dozens of stops throughout Cajun country. The stops are great, and so are the links.

But thanks to the hoopla, you can get the nice folks at Jerry Lee’s to overnight you a few pounds. It is easy to reheat (microwave until hot, or steam, or heat in hot but not boiling water, or grill)…. and keeps in the fridge for several days. You can reach them here… they ship Monday-Thursday. Remember my words… Cajun crack.

Jerry Lee’s Kwik Stop

I have also included my boudin recipe below, but unless you have made sausage before, you may want to get some help. It is a messy ordeal.

Happy eating, and don’t forget, I told you so.

Here is a simple recipe from our friend, Emeril… I have adapted to my taste.

Louisiana Boudin

2 1/2 pounds pork butt, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 pound pork liver, rinsed in cool water
2 quarts water
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped green bell peppers
1/2 cup chopped celery
4 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 teaspoons cayenne
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 cup finely chopped parsley
1 cup chopped green onions tops, (green part only)
6 cups cooked medium-grain rice
1 1/2-inch diameter, casings, about 4 feet in length

In a large sauce pan, combine the pork butt, pork liver, water, onions, garlic, bell peppers, celery, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Bring the liquid up to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 1 1/12 hours, or until the pork and liver are tender. Remove from the heat and drain, reserving 1 1/2 cups of the broth. Using a meat grinder with a 1/4-inch die, grind the pork mixture. 1/2 cup of the parsley, and 1/2 cup of the green onions, together. Turn the mixture into a mixing bowl. Stir in the rice, remaining salt, cayenne, black pepper, parsley, and green onions. Add the broth, 1/2 cup at a time, and mix thoroughly. Either using a feeding tube or a funnel, stuff the sausage into the casings and make 3-inch links. Bring 1 gallon of salted water up to a boil. Poach the sausage for about 5 minutes, or until the sausage is firm to the touch and plump. Remove from the water and allow to cool.