October 31, 2003
Last week-end, as Maxence was walking up the rue Lepic, he was lured into one of the many inviting charcuteries (a charcuterie is a store halfway between a butcher's shop and a deli). The boudin antillais was tempting, so he bought four small ones. Boudin antillais (a twist on boudin noir) is a specialty from the Antilles, the French Carribeans. They are blood sausages, made with bread, peppers, milk, onions, rhum, various spices and, well, pork blood.
It took me a while to try blood sausages. As a matter of fact, I tried my first about two years ago, in the form of crunchy ravioli filled with blood sausage, pinenuts and apple, a signature appetizer at the excellent restaurant Les Dolomites, in the 17th arrondissement. If you can get over the main ingredient of boudin, the reward is the unique taste.
So boudins antillais went on the menu for lunch on Sunday. Maxence said we needed purée (mashed potatoes) with this. As incredible as it may sound, I had never made home-made mashed potatoes before. From dried potato flakes, yes, but from scratch, no. Having just read "The Man Who Ate Everything" by Jeffrey Steingarten, in which he devotes a whole essay to his quest for the perfect mashed potatoes, I thought myself well-armed to tackle the task. We walked down to the rue des Martyrs to buy some bintje potatoes, the variety French purée recipes recommend. Back home, I opened the book to Jeffrey's recipe, but thought he made it sound much more daunting than it should be (the double-cooking, the exact water temp, sheesh!), so I decided to be my ingenuous self and just follow my instincts.
I peeled 600 g of potatoes (four medium) and cut them in half-inch slices. As per Jeffrey's advice, I rinsed the slices under cold water, to wash off the starch that had leaked from the cells I had ruptured while slicing (well, sorry!). I put the slices in salted cold water in a medium saucepan, brought the water to a boil, then reduced the heat. I let that cook, uncovered, water simmering, for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, I filled a third of a glass with milk, in which I sprinkled generous amounts of salt and pepper, and pressed two cloves of garlic. I heated this up in the microwave (caution, it *will* boil over, trust me on this). I also diced about 40 g of butter. When the potatoes were cooked to tenderness, I drained them, returned them to the pan, added the milk and the butter, and mashed it all together, using a whisk. (This made three generous servings.)
About 5 minutes before the potatoes were ready, Maxence heated up a skillet, and sauteed the boudins on low heat. The trick is to avoid submitting them to violent heat, which will cause the skin to burst, while still heating them enough to create a slight crust.
The boudin sausages were scrumptious : crunchy on the outside, moist on the inside, with this very peculiar paste-like melting texture, sweet and wonderfully spiced, infused with complex hints of cumin, ginger and a host of other savors we couldn't quite pin down. The mound of fluffy purée was the perfect accompaniment, providing a stable taste ground to recuperate on, making the next bite of boudin a new burst of flavor. This delicious meal left us stuffed and happy, ready for a very welcome cup of coffee.
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Smoked Herring and Potato Salad