Boudin Noir (blood sausage)

boudin_noir_plate

Here’s the truth: It took seven visits to the same European meat market before I finally worked up the nerve to part with the measly five dollar bill it cost me to take it home. And I’ll be the first to say it — it was the word “blood” on the little plastic card in front of the sausages that made the extra six trips necessary.

Looking back, it all seems silly now. Because it was worth every penny, and not just because of how delicious it was. It taught me the importance of old world cooking. These are recipes born out of necessity and, more importantly, out of respect for the animal that gave its life for our table.

Blood sausage has many different names, depending on where you’re from or where you buy it. In America, it’s black pudding. They make Morcilla in Spain, while the Germans make Blutwurst. The English make a variation they call Lancashire pudding. But in France, it’s Boudin Noir.

The French traditionally use pork blood to make their version of this sausage. It’s mixed with a variety of ingredients. A sample recipe might include onions, lard, apples, fatback, garlic, parsley, nutmeg, cream, egg, salt, and pepper. The blood congeals when cooked, but needs something to bind itself to. So the additional ingredients help.

After being stuffed into hog casings, the sausages are poached in water at temperatures of 175 to 185 °F, then air dried in a cool environment. After that, they’re ready to be cooked and eaten.

You can prepare blood sausage just as you would any other type of sausage. I sauteed mine in butter, since that seemed the appropriate method. If I’m cooking something French, and have even a thread of doubt about how to prepare it, I reach for butter.

boudin_noir_saute

I served it with mashed potatoes topped with parsley and drank an incredible beer with it, courtesy of my friend and fellow podcaster Rick from Big Foamy Head.

Brabant is a barrel-aged wild ale from Avery Brewing, and was extremely limited in production (only 624 cases produced). It was brewed using the infamous Brettanomyces yeast, which produces sour flavors in beer. After fermentation was complete, Brabant was aged for 8 months in used Zinfandel barrels. The result was a beer that, while sour, retained a complexity and depth of flavor that required several sips for me to wrap my head around. Deep with flavors of tart currants and unripe cherries, Brabant was the perfect compliment to this dish.

brabant1

As for the sausage itself, it tasted nothing like what I was afraid it would. And to be completely forthcoming, I’m not sure what I was afraid it would taste like to begin with. It was lush, creamy, dense, any word I would use to describe something rich with flavor. The onions were something I couldn’t pick out on their own. The spices themselves did not stand out either. As for the blood, I’m not sure what that even tastes like on its own, but it sure works for me here. Together, all of these ingredients were the perfect compliment to one another.

Blood Sausage is not just something I’m glad I had the opportunity to taste. It made me realize that old world dishes like this really matter. Because if they no longer matter, food no longer matters. To use every part of the animal, in any form, with any number of additions to make it more palatable — that’s cooking.

More to the point, an understanding and appreciation of a dish like this is what helps us realize why we are as passionate about food and ingredients as we are. And that, my friends, is what defines us as foodies.

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