Sausage: you may know it as your favorite pizza topping, a feature on your twee charcuterie board, or that thing you eat once a year at Oktoberfest. But in New Orleans, it means business.Specifically, we're talking about boudin, one of the state foods of Louisiana, a mystical blend of rice, pork, seasonings, onions, and herbs encased in magic that can be found anywhere from gas stations and, thanks to chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Donald Link, white tablecloth restaurants.
Emeril and Donald have such an affinity for this native dish that they created a festival centering on a boudin throwdown between some of the South's most celebrated chefs from Hugh Acheson to John Besh and Ashley Christensen.
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Boudin, Bourbon, and Beer will be take place November 7 in New Orleans' Champions Square, but we had a chance to talk with Emeril as he geared up for boudin battle and On the Menu, his new competitive cooking show on TNT.
Southern Living: Boudin, Bourbon, and Beer is a celebration of New Orleans' incredible restaurant scene. If you had to give an address on the state of that scene today, what would you say?
Emeril Lagasse: New Orleans' dining scene is exploding right now with so many new places to try. It’s really incredible to see so many places open. The variety and caliber of restaurants continues to get better, which I think is a testament to the importance of food, wine, and cocktails in our culture.
SL: Who are some new faces at this year's event that you're looking forward to seeing?
EL: My buddies Hugh Acheson, who you may know from judging with me on Top Chef New Orleans, Frank Stitt from Alabama, and Jim Richard from the Gulf Coast are all new faces this year. They’ve given me a sneak peek of what they’ll be serving and let me tell you, it’s going to be awesome.
SL: What is your favorite new restaurant in New Orleans right now?
EL: Wow, that’s really tough and I have to admit that I don’t get out of my own kitchens enough. It’s probably not considered new anymore, but if I had to choose, I’d say Peche because fresh seafood is a favorite of mine, and Donald Link is doing a great job over there.
SL: With your new show on TNT and this festival, you probably don't have much time to yourself. What do you do when you get a moment away?
Fishing is a huge passion of mine. I try to fish any chance I get. My kids have really started to enjoy fishing as well, so it’s a family affair, which is the best part. Plus we get to cook what we catch and there’s nothing better than fresh seafood.
SL: What are you planning on cooking this year at BB&B? Are you going traditional or switching it up?
EL: It’s a little of both actually. It’s traditional boudin with pork, pork liver, rice, and some secret ingredients with fresh sweet potato bread, Abita braised onions and some whole grain mustard. It has a twist to it though. My chef du cuisines at NOLA, Delmonico, and Emeril’s are also doing their own spin on boudin dishes, which will be fun to see each one’s interpretations.
SL: How competitive does the boudin cooking get? Who are the top contenders?
EL: Chefs by nature are quite competitive, but since we are all together for a charitable cause, it will be more fun than competitive. Top contenders, it’s anybody’s call. We have so many talented chefs coming this year and it’s so great to see how they interpret and experiment with boudin. I’m really looking forward to it.
SL: What would be your ideal boudin, bourbon, and beer combination?
EL: Classic Cajun boudin, Abita Amber, and Buffalo Trace bourbon. Killer combo.