Taste Test: A Little Something Extra
Sausage Day, as it’s known, is always our students’ favorite class during the Garde Manger lessons. It just so happens that it’s one of my favorite days as well. After all, I'm the guy who snuck a sausage maker onto his wedding registry while his wife was inspecting stand mixers.
On Sausage Day, we make everything from Italian sausage to hot dogs; but sometimes the students want to do something extra. I’ve never been one to say no to any project that involves pork, so I happily hand over my time-tested recipe for andouille sausage. Having grown up in the South, I've kind of got a thing for andouille. For me, it's the perfect fix to turn to when you want to give whatever-you-may-be-cooking ‘a little something extra.’
Like mirepoix to French cuisine or garlic, ginger and scallions in Asian cookery, smoked meats are an essential base to many classic Southern dishes. Andouille adds a meaty, smoky, spice unlike anything else — Jamblaya, proper red beans (with rice) and gumbo would be lost without it. You’d likely be kicked off the block if you ever tried to boil a sack of crawfish without andouille, corn and potatoes. I always keep a few pieces in the freezer to add a little extra my soups, stews and even pastas. And it is unbelievable on the grill come summertime. The key to good andouille is balancing the spice and the smoke. Too much of either and your dish will taste like it's loaded with cheap bacon or leave your guests breathing fire and running for the ice water. Learning the proper balance came through plenty of trial and error; but now I've got the formula down. And I'm happy to share with my students, and you.
Chef James’s Andouille Sausage
When making a sausage like this, accurate measurements are very important so I like to keep my recipes in grams. There are plenty of conversion charts online if you can't work in grams but try to stick to weights (ounces) for the best results.
- 2,270 grams (5 lbs) pork shoulder
- 550 grams finely diced lean pork (lean shoulder, loin or leg)
- 250 grams finely diced fatback
- 20 grams milk powder
- 250 grams ice water
- 7 grams ground cayenne pepper
- 10 grams paprika
- 40 grams minced fresh garlic
- 15 grams ground black pepper
- 20 grams kosher salt
- 15 grams sel rose (pink salt)
- 10 grams fresh thyme leaves
- Thoroughly chill all equipment before beginning. Trim the pork shoulder of any connective tissue and cut into 1-inch cubes. Keep the pork chilled by holding over an ice bath while you cut.
- When all the pork is cut, pass it through the medium blade of a meat grinder. Transfer the ground meat to a mixing bowl, preferably the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Sprinkle the milk powder over the ground meat and turn the mixer on low speed or mix by hand. When the milk powder is incorporated, slowly pour in the ice water while still mixing until the water is completely absorbed. Place the diced lean pork and fatback in a separate bowl and add the spice mixture.
- Mix thoroughly. Add the entire mixture to the ground pork and mix well again. Make a small patty of the sausage and cook in a pan to taste for seasoning. Adjust salt and pepper as needed. Pack the sausage into casings and form links. Place the sausage in the refrigerator, uncovered, to dry overnight.
- The next day, smoke the sausages for 1 hour at 250˚F. Turn the smoker off and let the sausages cool in the smoker. Cool immediately and reserve for use. Sausages will keep 4 weeks refrigerated and 6 months in the freezer.