Thursday, January 31, 2013

It's Mardi Gras...Time for HOT BOUDIN!

Boudin is a staple Cajun food found in Louisiana. It's a sausage mixture made up of pork, pork liver, rice and seasonings.  It's already fully cooked once it is stuffed into the casings, but it needs to be heated through prior to eating.  Found throughout Acadiana or Cajun Country, basically Lafayette, signs for HOT BOUDIN can be found everywhere.

Calvin Trillin published an essay entitled Missing Links in the New Yorker Magazine back in 2002 about boudin.  It is a great read and you can find it right here:  Missing Links

Anyway, here is a rundown of how it's made.  First there is a lot of cutting and chopping of meats and vegetables.  Pork butt, pork liver, lots of garlic, onion, celery, poblano peppers, jalapeno peppers, spices like cayenne pepper, chili pepper, salt, black pepper, white pepper and then to finish it off, cooked white rice, scallions and parsley.

 So, the first step is to cut up the meats and all the vegetables through the peppers.  All that gets mixed up with the spices and gets to spend the night marinating in the fridge.  The next day it goes into a pot, gets filled with water to an inch or two above the ingredients and then simmered for an hour and 45 minutes.  The broth is drained off and reserved and the meat is then run through the meat grinder with a course blade.  Once the meat and vegetables are all ground together they are added to the rice that has already been cooked along with the chopped parsley and scallions and the reserved cooking liquid.

At this point the mixture will be a little wet but the rice will absorb the liquid.  Now it's time to stuff the casings.  Hog casings are used for this.  Then link the sausages if you choose and they are ready for the last and final step before eating.  There are several ways to cook boudin, from boiling to steaming or even oven browning to brown off the casing so you can eat it.  Usually boudin is squeezed out of the casing like squeezing a tube of toothpaste.  You just suck the insides out of the skin and discard the skin.  It may not sound appetizing but to quote Calvin Trillin, “I figure that about 80 percent of the boudin purchased in Louisiana is consumed before the purchaser has left the parking lot, and most of the rest is polished off in the car. In other words, Cajun boudin not only doesn’t get outside the state; it usually doesn’t even get home.”

All the more reason you'll just have to make your own! All you'll need is a Kitchen Aid Mixer with a meat grinding attachment and stuffer kit, a large stock pot and a rice cooker certainly helps.  It's a labor of love like any sausage making, but you'll agree it is well worth the trouble when you are sucking the last morsels of boudin from the casings.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Visit to the Venice Rookery

This time of year the birds are already in baby mode here in southwest Florida.  At the Venice Rookery, there are mating birds, nesting birds and babies everywhere.

Venice Rookery is an Audobon property in Venice, Florida.  The property has a pond with a small island in the middle of it.  The island is made up of native Florida trees and is home to numerous species of wading birds, including Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Cattle Egrets, Anhinga, mud hens, Green Herons, Black-crowned Night Herons etc.

The birds know they're safe from land predators such as raccoons and opossum because the waters around the island are patrolled by alligators.  Here are some photos from today.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Fresh Beginnings

Here it is, the first day of the new year, 2013.  A fresh start, new beginnings.  What will the new year bring?  I see a few changes in my future, beginning with the decision to get out of the chicken bizz.  I enjoy the chickens and of course especially love the fresh eggs, but I've decided it is too much of an inconvenience to have them here on my small property in SW Florida.  It's hard on them in that they can't just free range as they please and hard on me as they require more attention and maintenence since they can't free range.  So, they are off to a nice farm, the real home and beginning for two of them and a new home to the other two.  I'm sure they will all be very happy and perhaps they will allow me some fresh eggs from time to time when I can get out that way.

Aside from that, I've also decided I need to make a concerted effort to get back to Montana in the summers.  I've missed the last two summers and that just can't be allowed to happen again. So, I plan on spending some serious time in Montana this summer and maybe I'll see some of you along the way.