Nov 20, 2011

Eatin' Boudin in Lake Charles

Recently John and I were in Lake Charles, Louisiana and went on the Boudin Trail. No kidding! Boudin is so popular that they have created a trail that leads from one boudin maker to another. Each boudin maker uses their secret family recipe but generally boudin is made with meat and rice. It is considered the signature dish of Southwest Louisiana enjoyed as a meal and is great at snack time. Boudin comes from the French Cajuns who settled in Louisiana after being driven out of Nova Scotia by the British in the 1700s. Years ago Cajun families would get together to slaughter a hog, an event known as a boucherie. They used everything from the “rooter to the tooter.” Nothing was left to waste so boudin was made of the leftover parts of the hog.

Today boudin is usually made with ground pork, liver, rice, parsley, onions, salt, black pepper, red pepper, and other seasonings. The sausage can be steamed or smoked. Some even create their own special boudin by using shrimp, crawfish and alligator. There is even organic and vegetarian boudin.

Our first stop was B&O Kitchen in Sulfur where the fourth generation was at work learning the trade. It was quite obvious that the owner, Jeff Cortina, was proud of his product. His boudin was excellent, he shared that he did not use liver and uses only the highest quality ingredients. He makes about 200 lbs a day, which is amazing since his place resembles a mom-and-pop meat market. One thing John and I fell in love with was his cracklin’. Cracklin’ is another Cajun treat – a great snack – it a piece of deep-fried pork fat with a small amount of the skin attached. It is similar to bacon rinds but, oh, so much better. Jeff said, “Timing when boiling the cracklin’ in the oil is critical. There is a two-minute window between success and failure.

Our next stop was Hollier’s Cajun Kitchen also in Sulphur. They serve meals along with their meat products. Mike Hollier, one of the owners, said they make over 10,000 pounds a month. Hollier includes liver because that is the Cajun way but he uses only a little liver so as not to overpower the taste. “It’s a good way to get kids to eat liver,” he quipped. At one time they raised the hogs behind the store but the business has grown so they no longer have the time to tend to the hogs but they still know the source of their meat and use only the finest ingredients. He also makes crawfish boudin when they are in season. The Boudin Trail has 29 stops – that’s a lot of boudin sampling.

Southwest Louisiana is the place for good eatin’. One day we ate at Seafood Palace in Lake Charles known as the home of the best gumbo in the area. Gumbo is a thick soup that originated in the area at the same time boudin did. It can be made with meat or shellfish and the “holy trinity” of celery, bell peppers and onion along with special seasonings. We tried alligator for the first time. It didn’t taste like chicken! The flavor was quite delicate. It was very tasty but then again it was deep-fried which makes most things taste great! No doubt about it… the eatin’ was good when we were in Lake Charles.