Fall is in the air-well, for a couple of days anyway! Fall means FOOTBALL. Wherever you are cheering on your favorite team here in Louisiana, there are usually boudin balls to be enjoyed at the game. For those not from around these parts (as we like to say), Boudin is from the Middle French word boud meaning “cold cut” and is pronounced BOO DAN! Boudin has been traced back to the early 1800’s, as a result of an earlier form of “Makeover my Leftover” quest to use all the leftover pork scraps and to stretch the budget–see you never know how far YOUR CREATION can go! Traditional boudin is pork with rice, onions, and seasoning (you will also find crab, crawfish, gator, shrimp, beef, chicken and more) stuffed into a casing to form a sausage (thanks to the German sausage makers). But don’t go into the store and ask for boudin sausage, you may get laughed all the way back from where you originated, we call them links, just ask for a link–they can be steamed, boiled, grilled, or smoked.
I got to thinking about the connection of football and boudin and of course kept getting stuck on the pigskin, the original football of inflated pig bladder and the original casing of boudin, pig intestines (….I know, but how many people actually eat the skin anyway, in fact, most of the time now it is a synthetic casing, so if you can find the real deal, enjoy the added flavor!) Okay, maybe the connection is a STRETCH (get it? my funny for the day!)
If you are looking to try the best boudin, you may want to start at the Boudin Capital of the World, SCOTT, LA (has the most shops and produces the most boudin and even holds the Boudin Festival) or the FORMER Boudin Capital of the World, BROUSSARD, LA or the Boudin Capital of the UNIVERSE, JENNINGS, LA! This is proof Boudin is taken seriously with secret family recipes passed down from generation to generation and numerous discussions and arguments as to who has the best!
Boudin Balls are the boudin filling (without the casing) formed into balls, breaded, and deep fried!
I admit boudin balls are one of my guilty pleasures. I try not to keep count when devouring them and add in a nice spicy horseradish sauce for my dipping pleasure and I have no self-control! So, needless to say, I am happy to see boudin balls at football games and at football parties. Perhaps the best reason football and boudin balls seem to go hand in hand is…well, beer in one hand and ball in the other, just a simple, easy to enjoy combination and no plate to spill when your team suddenly scores! So when the game is done and there are some boudin balls left, offer to take them home!
Leftover Boudin Balls can be used as a stuffing for fish, chicken, or my favorite shrimp.
Boudin Stuffed Shrimp
1. Buy some fresh shrimp:
I recommend 8/10 count or 10/12 count. This count refers to approximately how many shrimp are in a pound, example, 8/10 means there are about 8-10 shrimp in a pound. I find ordering shrimp by the count not size is more accurate, what some may say are large shrimp others may say are medium, etc. I like to buy head-on (head, tail, and shell intact) shrimp but tail-on would work, too. The amount of shrimp you will need depends on the number of boudin balls you are lucky enough to have leftover. I also recommend getting to know your local seafood merchant, he or she can be your best ally. I am lucky to have a local market nearby and am on a first name basis with the “fishmonger”. He lets me know what just came in straight from the boat and you can’t get any fresher than that, except from dropping your own line. (If you love to fish and you haven’t gone lately GO FISH!)
2. Give the shrimp a quick rinse and peel your shrimp leaving the tail on and DON’T throw away the heads and shells! This is why I recommend buying head-on shrimp, now we have the makings of a shrimp stock* and gumbo season is a coming!
*Shrimp stock is as simple as boiling water! In a stockpot (named that for a reason) put a small drizzle of oil-I use olive oil. Add and sauté some onions, carrots, and celery. If you want to impress your family and friends, this concoction is called a fancy French word mirepoix– pronounced meer-pwah named after the Duke of Mirepoix, a French general. It’s a simple 2-1-1 ratio, just put in twice as much onions as you do carrots and celery, and you have a mirepoix! Add some seasonings, bay leaves, a little thyme, black pepper, chopped garlic and the shrimp shells and heads and stir until the shells start to turn pink. Next add some water, the amount depends on the strength of the stock you desire and amount of shells. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and let it simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Stir it occasionally and push the heads up against the side of the pot to release the fat from the heads, like crawfish, that is where all the flavor lives. Let cool and strain using a mesh strainer. If you are not using within a week, freeze it flat in a Ziploc freezer bag or if you only made a small amount, pour the stock into an ice cube tray, freeze, then store the cubes in a freezer bag.
3. Devein the shrimp; by removing the middle thread like tract and butterfly; cut down the center of the shrimp without cutting all the way through and leave the tail intact (the tail works as its own utensil to help pick up the shrimp to eat)
4. Put the boudin balls in a food processor (I use a mini one I keep in a drawer, may take a couple batches but easier than getting out the big Cuisinart for small jobs and it’s easier to clean!) and pulse until finely chopped. (Note: You can also use a link of boudin, just add in some bread crumbs) 5. Put the processed boudin in a bowl and add your favorite cheese, pepperjack is a tasty one, and add some liquid (white wine is my preference, but you could also use beer, apple juice, or water) to help the mixture stay together. Test as you add liquid, as soon as you can squeeze it together and it stays formed, it is good to go.
6. Fill the butterflied shrimp with the mixture, give it a little press, place in a casserole dish (you could wrap it with a piece of bacon and broil it, but I am trying to make the boudin a little healthier if that’s at all possible!) and pour in a little of the liquid you used in the stuffing, for me white wine with a dash of lemon juice-the real thing is best, but I confess one of my “go to” supplies are those plastic lemon and limes.
7. Bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes or until shrimp are firm to touch and tails are nice and red
As an added benefit for us tonight, redfish was just arriving as I was buying the shrimp, wasn’t even out yet, but my friend the fishmonger let me know and I can’t pass on fresh redfish, so while my shrimp were cooking , I grilled it on my flat grill– it’s a perfect pairing for the stuffed shrimp along with steamed broccoli and a nice glass of champagne (beer may have boudin balls for the game, but champagne raises the glass to the stuffed shrimp-try it!)
Put your TO COOK IS TO CREATE thinking cap on: What else could you add to the stuffing? For example, when stuffing chicken I add some pecans instead of cheese and when stuffing fish I add mushrooms. What else could you stuff with the leftover boudin balls beside fish, chicken, or shrimp? Jalapenos? Bell Peppers? Pork Chops? Ravioli? No leftover boudin balls? No problem, just use leftover jambalaya instead!
FOOD FUN: If you are lucky to live in Louisiana head out on a quest to find your favorite boudin (if you live elsewhere bribe a friend in Louisiana to send you some) and make it a family friendly day trip. Give everyone a score card and try a few, and don’t look over a simple gas station, there is boudin to be found everywhere. There are plenty of things to see in our own backyard and plenty of history to learn! Set out on your adventure, take an ice chest, and when you get home enjoy the leftovers!