Charcutepalooza: Smoked Andouille Sausage

Last month I started down a Louisiana-centric path for my first Charcutepalooza sausage challenge, with a Creole Chicken Sausage. This only whet my appetite, however, for a recipe I’d been eying for a while in Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie: Smoked Andouille Sausage. So, for this month’s stuffing challenge, I pulled out all the stops, dove back into pork with a vengeance, and lived the andouille dream. I even got some shrimp ‘n grits into the picture.

Because I’m a good Charcutepaloozian, I’m obeying the Rulhs and refraining from sharing the full sausage recipe. I was even too lazy to take photos. I mean, really, who wants to look at a whole page of raw meat? So…I made a video.

A few notes, now that you’ve seen my [obviously] Oscar-ready film:

  1. Grinding Boston Butt in a Kitchenaid is a pain…in the butt.  Puns aside, I wanted to pass on a couple of tips from a chef friend: first, dice your pork as fine as possible and, second, freeze it for about 30 minutes before grinding so the machine can get a good grip on pieces.
  2. Never give up on finding casings.  Yes, you can get them online.  But pestering local butchers also works wonders.
  3. I was bad and omitted an ice bath for the grinding bowl (I was in a hurry, moving fast, and having a lot of trouble reaching the ice tray at the top of my freezer). I counted on preservatives (andouille uses pink salt) and speed, but I do not endorse this approach.
  4. If you use Ruhlman’ andouille recipe (OK, some other person put a version up here), you can substitute paprika for half the cayenne to take the heat down a notch.  I’m personally of the “throw on more cayenne” school, but I’m not just cooking for myself these days.
  5. Yep, I’m really short.  Julia Child had to have oversize counters made for her…if I had my way, I’d have miniature one.
  6. Watch out: this recipe will cause strife.  My dad tried to call dibs on the last sausage and my stepmom snuck in and snagged it at the last second.  I applaud: I was definitely responsible for taking care of the second-to-last link.
  7. Finally…I may or may not have started my own Weinergate: I totally texted this to a friend…

As for the shimp ‘n grits…For the grits, I used a recipe I already posted on here a while ago. I made some cheesy grits, let them set in a large loaf pan, and sliced and pan-fried them.

The sausage and shrimp stew had its origins in an Out of Kentucky Kitchens recipe for “Okra, Corn, and Tomato Melange.” My friend Errol has explained on a few occasions: the basic aim of any good soul food side is to turn whatever you’re eating into a meat. This melange was no exception to the rule: it calls for cooking veggies in bacon grease, and adding crunchy bacon bits in at the end.

Bacon bits in veggies are on my list of Favorite Things (who cares about white dresses with blue satin sashes). I decided that I might possibly survive, though, with an alternate pork addition: I subbed sausage for bacon. The shrimp were a bonus. Mostly because I really just like saying and writing “Shrimp ‘N Grits.”

Sausage, Shrimp, ‘N Grits with Veggie Melange (Serves 6)
2 lb. smoked andouille sausage*
Bacon fat to grease pan (about 1 tbsp.)
1 pt. okra, chopped into 1/2-inch rings
1 large onion, chopped
2 ears corn, kernels cut from cob
3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 medium green peppers, chopped
2 medium red peppers, chopped
1 1/2 tsp. paprika
Dash cayenne
Salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 lb. large shrimp, shell on

1. Heat your grill to medium. Grill the andouille, 12-15 minutes a side, until cooked through. Prepare the stew in the meantime so you can add the sausage in while hot from the grill.
2. Heat the bacon grease over a medium flame in a large saucepan and add the onion and okra. Stir and cook until the onion begins to turn translucent. Add the corn, cook for a couple of minutes, then toss in the peppers and tomatoes.
3. As the tomatoes begin to release juice and the vegetables start to soften, season with paprika, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Cook until the peppers and okra are just tender, and the liquid in the pan is starting to thicken.
4. Add the shrimp and the hot-from-the-grill sausages, and keep cooking for about 5 minutes until the shrimp cook through and turn opaque. Serve hot, over pan-fried cheese grits.

*A half recipe from Ruhlman’s book