I was born and raised in Louisiana. When I was 17, three days after graduating from high school, I moved with my mother to Florida. A couple of decades (plus) later, I find myself in Seattle with years of living a somewhat Bohemian lifestyle behind and ahead of me, a mélange of exciting flavors coloring my world, and, no matter if I ever return “home”, a love so deep for my Louisiana roots that it often overpowers my thoughts, conversations, and lifestyle. You can take the girl out of Louisiana, but you can’t take the Louisiana out of the girl.
Whenever I do go back, one of my must-haves is boudin – a delectable, mouthwatering, spicy, piece of pork heaven made from pork butt, pork or chicken livers, herbs, spices, and rice. It’s one of those things that always made me wonder if I could ever really leave Louisiana for good. It’s magic, especially when accompanied by Zapp’s chips, pickled mirlitons, and ice cold Miller High Life. Or for breakfast with a hot cup of coffee.
France has its version of boudin blanc, but throughout the Cajuns’ travels and due to the local products available, the South Louisiana version transformed into something a bit different. The French also use pork but mix it with bread, cream, cognac and different spices. Then there’s boudin noir (sometimes Louisiana slaughterhouses make that too) which is again heavenly especially when it’s Spanish morcilla de Burgos, a scrumptious blood sausage mixed with rice and served alongside aged manchego and a Rioja in a rustic bar in Spain.
(Enter brief daydream of living beachside in Spain with tables full of exquisite hams, sausage, cheese, seafood, and wine. Ahhhh….)
So here I sit, writing to you from a typical Juneuary day in Seattle, crossing my fingers the sun does actually appear after July 4th (an unwritten understanding Seattleites have with the rain gods) and dreaming of sunnier spots with bold flavors, music, dancing and sunshine. In this case, Spain and Louisiana aren’t too far off from each other. And with the mix of French, Spanish, and German in the state, not to mention the area’s extensive rice cultivation, it’s no wonder we have such a flavorful gem to boast about. If you happen to be down there, you can find boudin in any specialty meats store as well as most convenience stores sold in links or balls. Some of the best-known are the Best Stop, Early’s and NuNu’s. Oh, and T-Boy’s in Mamou. FYI, Lafayette, Louisiana’s Boudin Cook-Off, held in October, was recently named one of America’s Best Food Festivals in Gourmet Magazine.
Yesterday I went to a July 4th party. And because I tooted my own horn about making boudin once, I was assigned to prepare a batch. It was a hit! Yay! The first time, I went all the way to stuffing it in casings. Because I had no idea what I was doing, I ended up with pig parts all over my kitchen. This time around was a breeze especially since I decided to shoot for bite-size boudin balls (croquettes or boulettes) instead. Because it’s so delectable, because I now enjoy making and sharing it, and because I really want you to listen to me if you want your life to change forever for the better, I’m passing the recipe on to you. Everyone adds their own special touch to it, within reason, so instead of giving you my own I’ll trust that you’ll come up with something tasty. But please… don’t get crazy. Think Louisiana, people, otherwise it just becomes another sausage. For more info and tips, check out the Southern Boudin Trail and the Cajun Boudin Trail.
2lbs pork butt
1/2lb fresh pork or chicken livers
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp. dry bay leaves (or 2 whole bay leaves)
1 tbsp. dry thyme (or ½ bunch fresh thyme)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tsp. cayenne, plus more after to taste
5 cups cooked rice
1 cup green onions, finely chopped
1 cup parsley, finely chopped
hog casings, if using, or herbed breadcrumbs – to the breadcrumbs I add Louisiana seasoning, cayenne, herbs, salt & pepper
three eggs and a ½ cup milk, whisked
Cut the pork and liver into small pieces and place in a deep pot along with the onion, garlic, bay leaves, and thyme. Cover with cold water by 2 inches. Season the water well with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface. Simmer for about 1.5 hours or until meat is super tender. Strain the solids from the broth, reserving some of the broth. Run the cooked meat & veggies (while still hot) through a meat grinder or a food mill. You can also chop it by hand, but it must be very fine.
In a large bowl, combine the cooked rice with the ground meat mixture, green onions, and parsley. Mix thoroughly and season to taste with salt, peeper, and cayenne. I also add some Louisiana seasonings here. Add some of the reserved cooking liquid to make sure it’s moist, but not too wet. The rice will absorb some of the liquid as it sits. Place in a refrigerator to cool.
When the mixture is cool, stuff it into hog casings. To heat the stuffed boudin links, either poach them in water between 165-185 degrees F or brush casings with a little oil and bake in a 400-degree oven until heated through and the skins are crispy. Boudin can also be smoked or steamed.
Form chilled boudin into golf ball-size balls then dip in egg/milk mixture and in breadcrumbs. Deep fry until golden.
I’m including some pics of the process along with a bit of musical inspiration. Enjoy!
Plus a few pics from yesterday’s delicious festivities…