Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ingredient of the Month: Andouille Sausage

As the fanfare of Mardi Gras hits the streets of New Orleans, this presents an opportune time for us to cook up some Cajun fare.  Just what is it that adds a unique smoke and spice combination to gumbos and jambalayas?  The ingredient to be credited with that special zip in such Cajun entrees is the Andouille sausage.

French immigrants who settled in Acadia, Canada were later driven south by the British; and so they fled with their andouille in tow, thus introducing this heavily smoked pork sausage to Louisiana where is has earned its rightful place among Cajun culinary ingredients.

Andouille is made from pork, typically seasoned with garlic, salt, cayenne pepper and black pepper.  The sausages are then smoked over a pecan-wood fire for a ten to fourteen hour period.

Andouille is an essential ingredient in jambalaya, an entrée also containing rice, tomatoes, shrimp or crawfish, chicken, peppers and onions.  It is also used in gumbo, a stew-like dish containing any of a number of meats, shellfish and vegetables, usually thickened with the addition of okra.  Andouille also makes a flavorful addition to omelets and soups.  For a simple cocktail party nibble: cut the Andouille into bite-sized chunks, lightly brown in a frying pan until heated through, poke a toothpick into each piece and arrange on a platter around a bowl of honey mustard for dipping.  The sweetness of the honey mustard plays well with the spicy smoke of the sausage.

In one of my previous blogs I shared with you my recipe for jambalaya:

Here is another one dish meal that reaps the flavorful benefits of Andouille sausage.

Cajun Sausage & Beans
8 Andouille sausages, sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 green bell peppers, chopped
1 cup white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 tablespoons parsley
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
2 15-ounce cans red beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste
Additional sprigs of parsley and thyme, for garnish
Hot sauce, optional

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Fry the onions, garlic and sausages until the onions are translucent and the sausages browned.  Add the pepper and sauté for another two minutes.  Add the wine; boil until reduced by half.  Stir in the tomato paste, the tomatoes, parsley and thyme.  Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil.  Stir in the beans, cover the skillet, reduce heat and simmer for twenty minutes, stirring occasionally.  Garnish with parsley and thyme sprigs and serve with hot sauce, if desired.  Serves four.

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