French Recipes for the Fêtes: Boudin Blanc with Mushrooms
Traditionally associated with the Christmas and New Year’s holidays in France, boudin blanc, or white sausage, is the perfect way to start any holiday dinner, tucked into rolled puff pastry as an amuse-bouche, or palate-tickler. But this sausage’s subtle flavor and refined texture are also delicious served as a main course, accompanied by a green salad or a few sautéed apples.
White sausage’s medieval ancestor was a simple hot milk porridge. In the 17th century, this porridge became more dignified with the addition of eggs, white meats, and seasonings. And with these ingredients the modern white sausage was born: boudin à la parisienne, or Parisian-style boudin.
Nowadays, white sausage is made from a very fine purée of lean meat (pork, poultry) into which is added thickening agents like eggs and a panade, or a paste made from a liquid (here, milk and cream) and a starch. The panade helps the meats retain moisture.
Most sausage recipes require buying and grinding fatback, but using a relatively moist cut like pork belly replaces this step. Gilles Verot, a charcutier with two shops in Paris (see addresses below), uses only pork belly in his boudin, and last year made over one ton of boudin blanc during the holiday season!
This terrine-style recipe is not hard to prepare, since there’s no fussing with sausage casings. The process has three main steps: making an infusion, which basically means cooking vegetables in milk and cream so that they give all their flavor to the liquids. The second step is preparing and cooking the terrine, and then when it’s cool, slicing and sautéing the slices in a bit of butter. I like to make this terrine-style boudin the day before I want to eat it, since it takes on a better consistency and more flavor.
Boudin Blanc with Mushrooms
Special equipment: a food processor, a terrine mold or rectangular loaf pan (9x5x3 inches, or 23x13x8 cm)
8 ounces (225g) chicken breasts, ground (ask your butcher)
8 ounces (225g) pork belly, ground (ask your butcher)
½ tablespoon butter
1 ounce (30g) mushrooms (I used 2 medium shiitake mushrooms), chopped finely
2 tablespoons (2g) dried mushrooms (a mix of morels, porcini), plumped for 10 minutes in hot water
2-3 small slices of excellent-quality bread (about 2 ounces or 55g), toasted lightly
2 egg whites
a bit of butter for the mold
For milk infusion:
1 tablespoon butter
¼ of a small onion (30g), finely chopped
1 2-inch piece of leek (white part only, 30g), finely chopped
½ medium carrot (30g), finely chopped
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons (210g) milk
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons (210g) heavy cream
½ bay leaf
1 small branch fresh thyme, or a pinch of dried thyme
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
⅛ teaspoon white pepper
a pinch of ground nutmeg
½ tablespoon Port
How to make it:
- 1. Spread the ground meats around on a plate. Then wrap in film and place in the freezer for 1 hour.
2. In the meantime, melt the ½ tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, and when it begins to foam, add the fresh mushrooms and lower the heat, sautéing slowly for about 4 minutes. Squeeze all the water out of the now-plumped (formerly dried) mushroom. Chop them finely and add them to the sauté pan. Continue to sauté for 1 more minute, then set aside.
3. Now make the milk infusion: in a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, and when it begins to foam, lower the heat to medium-low and add the onion, leek, and carrot. Cook the vegetables, stirring often, for about 4-5 minutes. They should look softened, but not colored.
4. Add the milk, cream, clove, bay leaf, and thyme, and bring to the boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to minimum, cover partially, and let simmer gently for 20-30 minutes.
5. Cut the bread slices into cubes about the size of your thumbnail. Preheat oven to 320°F (160°C). Strain the milk into a medium bowl and set aside.
6. Remove the meats from the freezer and place them in the bowl of a food processor. Process them by alternating pulsing and running continuously for about 3-4 minutes.
7. Add the egg and egg whites, and continue to process. Then run the machine continuously, and very slowly and carefully pour in the still-hot milk. Continue to process, stop to add the bread cubes, and then continue until you have a smooth mixture.
8. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, and Port, and pulse once more to mix.
9. Stir in the mushrooms, and turn the mixture into a buttered terrine mold or loaf pan.
10. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a hot water bath for 40 minutes, or until a knife poked into the center comes out clean.
11. When ready to eat, slice the boudin into 1-inch slices (2.5cm), and sauté both sides of the boudin in a bit of butter over medium heat. Or roll cubes of boudin into puff pastry and bake according to pastry instructions. Bon app’!
Makes 4-5 main course servings, or about 15-20 puff pastry bites.
If you’re in Paris, you can find both traditional and contemporary terrine molds at La Vaissellerie, which has 5 different addresses around the city. http://www.lavaissellerie.fr/
Gilles and Catherine Verot, Charcutiers. http://www.verot-charcuterie.fr/
To order dried mushrooms, see here.
CookWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking by Shirley Corriher
For more about panades, see here.
Lead photo credit : Terrine-style boudin blanc, with a contemporary white Revol terrine mold purchased from La Vaissellerie in Paris. Allison Zinder