When you think of traditional Cajun food, you're probably familiar with crawfish, gumbo and jambalaya—or at least heard of them. But Cajun cuisine boasts yet another unique delicacy, and that is boudin.
What Is Boudin?
Boudin (pronounced "BOO-dan," at least in Cajun country) is a cooked sausage made from pork meat and rice, plus various vegetables and seasonings, all stuffed in a natural pork casing.
Traditional boudin features pork liver and/or pork heart along with scraps of pork meat from just about any part of the hog. The meat is first simmered, and then drained and ground up. The ground meat is heavily seasoned and combined with vegetables such as onions, celery and bell peppers, plus cooked rice, to produce the filling, which just happens to be, essentially, a dish known as pork dirty rice.
The next step is to take the cooked dirty rice and stuff it into a natural pork sausage casing (made from pig's intestine), then twist it into links and cook it, either by steaming, simmering, smoking or grilling.
Note that unlike many sausages, where uncooked meat is stuffed into a casing, boudin is made from cooked meat. That means curing isn't necessary—although some recipes for homemade boudin do call for curing salt. (As always, follow the recipe you're using.)
How to Cook Boudin
If you buy premade boudin, it's already cooked, and all you need to do is heat it up. This can be done by simmering it, grilling it, baking it in the oven, or some combination thereof (such as simmering it for a few minutes and then finishing it on the grill).
For the most part, what you're trying to do is heat the sausage all the way through without scorching the outside. That's why a combination of simmering, which heats the sausage through, followed by grilling or oven-baking, which browns the sausage and crisps the skin, is an effective cooking method for boudin. Grilling alone would tend to burn the skin before the insides were heated through.
On the other hand, if you make your own boudin, that's a whole other process, and depending on how you make it, you can simmer it, steam it, smoke it or cook it on the grill.
How to Eat Boudin
The first question when it comes to eating boudin is, do you eat the casing or not? And the answer is, it's up to you. Some people do eat the casing, but it can be chewy.
One common way to eat boudin is to bite into one end and squeeze the filling into your mouth, rather like a push pop made of meat and rice. You might end up eating some of the casing this way, which is perfectly all right. You'll also find that boudin is loosely stuffed, so it won't snap when you bite it the way some other sausages do. But this looseness aids in getting the filling out of the casing.
A common way to eat boudin is to squeeze it out of the casing and eat it on crackers, sometimes along with a squirt of mustard.
The point, though, is that unlike French boudin blanc, Cajun boudin is casual fare, even finger food, which is as likely to be eaten in a parking lot as at the table. And it can be eaten for lunch, dinner or breakfast.
These boudin recipes are a great place to start if you're looking to try this flavorful sausage.
As if this weren't enough, there are any number of boudin variations. Boudin can be made with shrimp, crawfish, duck, rabbit, venison, rabbit, and even alligator. As for the filling, Cajun boudin almost always features rice, but there is a version that substitutes cornbread for the rice. Boudin rouge is made the usual way with the addition of pig's blood, which gives the sausage a reddish hue.