As I awoke to a dreary morning (that accounts for the poor quality of the pictures, btw), I realised this finally was the big day, Boudin-Making Day. After gathering strength from a hearty breakfast, I put the radio on and set down to work. Some of you may be interested to know that the background discussion on France Musique this morning was about how Guillaume de Machaut's music fitted in with John XXII's 1322 bull on singing style in churches. To cut a long story short, it did fit in quite well. Anyhoo, if you want to relive through boudin-making day the way I did, launch the following mp3 and snap your fingers in rhythm.
Yes, boudin-making and cathedral-building belong to one common tradition. Deal with it.
So here is part of my fabulous mise-en-place.
Add to what you see 20cl of crème fraîche and three eggs. And a couple of slices of bread. And 30cl of milk. And about 10 prunes. What d'ya mean my mise-en-place is all wonky (comment ça, elle est mal foutue ma mise en place)?
My pork butcher (the sweetest man on earth, he bears an uncanny ressemblance to Goofy Goof, bless him) advised that I soaked the casings in salty water before using it.
Start by mincing one onion as finely as possible (try sparing your fingers, as they will come in handy later on) and sweating the bits in a little butter until transparent. The recipe suggested I use a red onion, but I only had white in the kitchen. I didn't have any qualms about not following the recipe since as usual I chose a most elliptic one, one of those annoying recipes that call for ingredients in the initial list that are never used in the instructions. It's lucky I love impro.
While the onion is softening, chop up a bunch of nice Swiss chard leaves so that it yields about two handfuls. Of course, keep the stalks and make something nice with them. Even a humble gratin should delight your tastebuds.
Also chop up a bunch of flat leaf parsley (I mixed flat-leaf and curly, sue me). Pour the greens and the cooked onion in the bowl of your mixer. Add the three eggs, the cream, the bread bits (as finely puréed as possible) and the soaking milk. Then add the meat (a pound of fat streaky bacon [du lard de poitrine], minced finely, and 200g of minced veal) - you may stick it in the blender and re-mince it prior to incorporating it to the rest of the ingredients.
Then combine everything thoroughly.
I added two handfuls of dry breadcrumbs because it seemed a little too wet. Don't forget to season, as the saltiness of the bacon may vary. If you are foolish, or if your stomach is listeria-proof, or a combination of the two, just have a spoonful of the mix. If you cannot afford to spend a day in the A&E's, on the other hand, simply throw a little bit in a pan and let it cook through before you taste it. It's OK too, but you're missing on an opportunity to meet George Clooney.
I'm awfully sorry but I have no pictures of the embossing process, as all hands were on the deck. I'll try to explain. We tried several techniques, but the best results have been obtained by not tying the end of the casing segment. This way, very little air got trapped in the sausages.
Goofy Goof gave me about a kilometre of casing, but I started with a humble one metre segment. Pop one end of the casing around the funnel (here, the top of a plastic bottle). Ladle the sausage mixture into the casing (you will need to force it in with a spoon or something), and add half a prune between each ladleful to ensure a harmonious repartition of the fruits in the sausages. Absolutely. It's not because we're talking sausages that we should lose sight of harmony.
Feed all of the boudin mix in the casing (you may need to change the casing if you took a shorter segment), but be sure to leave enough empty casing at both ends of what looks now like a giant sausage so that you have a bit of room to twist it into individual sausages. We made 11 with those proportions.
I then poached them in hot water (about 80°C) for 50 minutes or so, all attached. After half an hour, as I came in the kitchen to have a look, I noticed they were all floating on the surface, a phenomenon which I assumed was linked to the presence of air pockets within the casings. So Clever Claire decided to prick the air pockets with a sharp knife, in the hope that they would sink a little. I'll cut the crap for you (en un mot comme en cent) : it's not air, it's liquid fat, and the pressure in the boudin makes it rather dangerous. I ruined my jumper (j'ai tout salopé mon pull). I think that's why serious cooks wear aprons.
Then I popped them in a pan, separated, with a knob of butter to brown them gently on all sides, about 15 minutes in total because 11 boudins in one pan is pretty crowded.
And then, bliss - there is nothing quite like home-made boudin blanc. Note that they keep in the fridge, once cooked, for up to two days. I even have the impression the texture improves. Hm. I need to make some more. Just to make sure.
A few remarks:
- Not sure it was such a brilliant idea to add the soaking milk to the filling. If I had put only the soaked bread, I might not have needed to add the dry breadcrumb to keep the moisture in check.
- Swiss chard leaves are always lovely, but I think the general consensus is that they don't do much for the taste. In other words, they're quite bland. Maybe more parsley, and skip the chard leaves entirely? Shame, though, as it was the only healthy-ish ingredient in the boudins.
- Do not panick if you notice that there are punctures in the casing while you're feeding in the filling. When you will poach it, it will solidify.
- The frilly/hairy bits that you can see on the pictures of the uncooked boudin are intestinal villi (des valvules conniventes). If you were bored and decided to cut each one open and spread them on the floor, you could make yourself a nice tennis-court. Wikipedia says so, not me. I prefer clay courts.