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Spotlight on Sausage: Andouille

A ndouille (ahn-DOO-wee), or sometimes andouillette, is a sausage that originated in Normandy, France, where it is made by hand with pig intestines in a laborious process. The small intestine, large intestine and stomach of a pig are cleaned and cut into long narrow strips, bundled, rolled together and tied with a piece of string. These bundles are then marinated in salt and pepper for a week then stuffed into another pig intestine to form and outer skin and provide a sausage shape.

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When sliced, this traditional sausage reveals the little folds and outlines of the multitudinous layers of intestine that make up the whole. The sausage is then smoked for several weeks, which gives it flavor and dries it, after which is it soaked in water for a day to desalinize it, and then cooked in well-seasoned stock for six hours. When the andouille is hung to dry the skin takes on a dark color. This traditional process takes a month, though industrialized versions take only a few days.

Andouille in America
But most of us think of andouille as a meaty, spicy pork sausage from Cajun cuisine. The Cajuns are descendents of the Acadians, who immigrated to Nova Scotia from France in the 1600s (some believe from Normandy, home of andouille), and were displaced by British rule in the mid-1700s. Many Acadians moved to Louisiana, which at the time was a French territory. In this swampy region, traditional French recipes marinated with spicy island cuisine to create the bold and uniquely American style of cooking we call Cajun. It was there that the andouille evolved into a coarse-grained sausage composed of the simplest ingredients: pork shoulder, salt, black pepper, garlic and cayenne stuffed into beef middle casings. When traditionally made in the Cajun country of Louisiana, andouille is smoked for many hours over pecan wood and sometimes sugar cane. The resulting sausage is dark in color, somewhat dry and solid in texture, and certainly spicier that the andouille in France. LaPlace, Louisiana was named “Andouille Capital of the World” (don't tell the French!) and holds a festival every October, where much andouille is devoured, and plenty is socked away for the winter. There are families in La Place that have been making and selling andouille for 100 years, with much dispute about who was first, and how long to smoke the sausage. Regardless of whose andouille you try, if you are in LaPlace, rest assured that you are eating the real thing. There are many interpretations of andouille sausage available in markets outside of Louisiana, but all must be made of lean pork, with the simple ingredients described above, and smoked.

Cooking
Andouille is a fully-cooked, smoked sausage that lends itself to Cajun recipes like gumbo and jambalaya, both of which contain seafood. Andouille’s spicy taste goes well with briny seafood in these dishes, which are often accentuated with tasso ham, another Cajun pork product. While not technically a ham, because it’s made from pork butt (shoulder) not hind leg, tasso is salt cured briefly, then rubbed with a spice mixture of cayenne pepper and garlic, then hot-smoked until cooked. Tasso ham is a natural partner to andouille in Cajun dishes, especially those with rice, pasta or beans. Andouille can be sautéed with a variety of vegetables, added to scrambled eggs, or used in cornbread stuffing. Andouille is bold and flavorful enough to stand on its own either grilled or served cold, sliced up for an hors d’oeuvre or tapas plate.

ANDOUILLE NOTED: In French, the word “andouille” can be used as an insult, meaning an idiot or rascal.