Boudin has been described as one of the most unique, tasty and distinctly uncorrupted regional specialties in America, so how could my team of Mississippi Tamale Trail experts pass up the chance to travel the Cajun Boudin Trail?
Dr. Bruce Longest, Casey Clark, Kent Moore and I did exactly that last weekend getting an authentic taste of Cajun country while touring the back roads of Louisiana. We traveled to Lafayette, home of the Ragin Cajuns, last Friday night where we met Bruce native and now Lafayette resident Michael Brasher, a conservationist with Ducks Unlimited, at Prejeans – a well-known eatery in the heart of Acadiana.
Our venture down the Boudin Trail would begin Friday morning with an initial stop at The Best Stop Supermarket after Michael suggested they had his favorite Boudin. Basically, boudin is a combination of cooked rice, pork, onions, green peppers, and seasonings that are all put through a meat grinder and then stuffed into a sausage casing and cooked to preference. Steamed appeared the most common practice on our half dozen stops.
Not unlike our experience along the Tamale Trail in the Mississippi Delta, everyone has a slight variation with the included spices that gives each boudin a unique taste. Our “Cajun Breakfast” – a cold soda and a link of boudin – was a winner at The Best Stop, appropriately named.
From there, it was down the road in Scott, a suburb of Lafayette, to Don’s Specialty Meats where we were marginally less fond of their boudin, but loved their Cracklins, also known as Grattons. We walked out with a brown paper sack of the fried, crispy grattons which proved a great snack traveling through the bayou.
After a brief stop at Cajun Harley Davidson, next door to Don’s, we headed to Guidroz Food Center where they advertised “Boudin with an attitude.” When asked “hot or mild?” we chose mild and soon understood the “attitude.” They had a spice that provided just the right tickle to the tongue, but we all shook our heads at the thought of the “hot.”
Even more enjoyable to me was Guidroz’s “Boudin Balls” – tennis ball sized scoops of boudin deep fried. We unwrapped the Guidroz’s purchase on the hood of the truck in the parking lot and all grabbed a plastic fork and went to town. All things considered, I gave this spot my winning score. Next up was Johnson’s Boucaniere in the heart of Lafayette where Wallace Johnson, whose father started the original business in 1939, served up their boudin for us wrapped in butcher paper. It was likely the most traditional of all we had with a wonderful, simple flavor.
Our last stop of the morning was at Bayou Boudin and Cracklin in Breaux Bridge where they had small, rustic cabins for rent overlooking a small bayou. We looked around the cabins, but due to a renovation in the main house they had no boudin this day, which was just as well, as we were good and stuffed anyway.
We let our boudin settle as we toured the backroads of Louisiana, enjoying the scenery in small towns such as Parks, Saint Martinsville, New Iberia, Jeanerette and more on our way to New Orleans. Saturday night we pulled our chairs up to the “food bar” at Emeril’s on Tchoupitoulas Street for an interesting dining experience. We had all enjoyed Emeril’s before, but not like this. The “food bar” provided seating overlooking the expansive kitchen where you saw the team of sous chefs working on every dish in the restaurant. It was exhausting, yet exhilarating watching them pull together such amazing dishes with such precision.
Surprisingly, of all the Cajun possibilities from Emeril, it was the fried chicken, that was served on a giant wood block with boiled crawfish and corn on the cob, that knocked me off my stool. The crawfish was good, but I’d never had fried chicken like that.
We polished that meal off with a walk through the French Quarter and some late night coffee and beignets at Cafe Du Monde and continued our tradition of Middendorf’s in Manchac for Sunday lunch on the ride home.
The Boudin Trail, like our trips down the Tamale Trail in the past, received a full endorsement from my traveling crew. But in all honesty, any trail leading to New Orleans is one we always desire to travel down.