22 March 2009

Boudins noirs aux oignons

I guess we've gone native, as the British say. We are eating boudins noirs, and not just because somebody invited us to dinner and served them to us. I actually bought some (it's not even the first time) and cooked them the other day.

What is boudin noir? It's what the British call Black Pudding. Or Blood Sausage. There is also a sausage called boudin blanc, which you might call White Pudding. Susan blogged about it on Days on the Claise a little while ago.

Boudin in French means "sausage" — or at least it's one of the words for sausage, along with saucisse and saucisson. Boudin is also the word that the English term "pudding" is derived from.

Blood sausage, or boudin noir in French

Pudding, then, must describe the consistency of the filling of the sausage. Really, what we call hot dogs — frankfurters, wieners — are boudin as well. Rather than the chunky, meaty filling you get in other sausages, like kielbasa or French saucisses de Toulouse or saucisses de Montbéliard, boudins or "pudding sausages" are filled with a smooth, creamy preparation that sets up when you cook the sausage.

So in England puddings are things like Christmas Pudding, which is more or less a fruitcake that has been completely moistened and steamed, but has that same kind of soft pudding consistency. And in America, puddings are what in French are called crèmes, as in crème brûlée or crème caramel — which is the same as Mexican flan. Custards, puddings...

It's all too complicated. Pudding is also a term used in England to mean any dessert or sweet served at the end of a meal. That's a long way from the meaning of the original term, boudin.

Anyway, the Robert Dictionary describes a boudin, as a boyau rempli de sang et de graisse de porc assaisonnés. That means a "bowel filled with pork blood and pork fat with seasonings." We would probably use some euphemistic term like "casing" in the place of boyau, but in French you just call it what it is. People are less squeamish about these things in France.

The boudins noirs I bought had blood as their first ingredient, but the second ingredient, 32% of the total, was onions. After that it was just pork fat, salt, spices, preservatives, and flavorings. You can also get boudins noirs that contain a good percentage of apple in the filling, and you can get little spicy hot ones that come from the Caribbean.

You cook boudins noirs either on a barbecue grill, in the oven, or in a frying pan. Grilling them outdoors is probably the best way, if you have that possibility. If you cook them in a pan, you brown them quickly (but they are already brown...) on two sides and then you turn down the heat and let them cook for 10 minutes on low to make sure they are done.

Boiled potatoes — we get such good spuds in France

Applesauce is a good side dish with Black Pudding. Or potatoes. I boiled some new potatoes, and then let them cool down out of the water. I peeled and diced them before tossing them in some duck fat and vegetable oil and putting them in a hot oven to roast. They browned on top and their crispiness complemented the softer texture of the sausage.

Diced boiled potatoes ready for browing in the oven.
Sorry I didn't take any pictures of the cooked food,
but we were too eager to sit down at the table and eat...

The only other things you need with that kind of food are some good bread and a big green salad. Wine, of course — red wine. And maybe a "pudding," in the extended British sense.

Next thing you know, we'll be buying, cooking, and enjoying eating andouillettes. Those are "chit'lin' sausages."


  1. Yes you can get some delicious boudon noir in Touraine. Balck pudding in the UK trends to be more solid often with small lumps of fat incorporated. In Scotland black pudding often has oatmeal in it.

    In Lisbon I've had black pudding with slightly warmed fresh pineapple – a delicious combination.

  2. I meant to add that there is a boudin noir festival every year in Chenonceaux in mid July, which apparently includes a competition to see who can eat most boudin noir in a set time!

  3. You were right to eat it while it was hot! There's nothing as yucky as boudin refroidi! I love boudin noir. But thought you guys didn't! Or maybe I am mistaken!

  4. No comment on the boudin noir, but the potatoes look heavenly. Yumm!

    Hey, Ken (and any other native speaker who wants to chime in!), I have a language question, and one that you might think was funny that I didn't know, but here it is: what is the best way to express "to stay in a [certain] hotel"? I know that "descendre dans" is used, but I worry that it feels archaic somehow... "rester" seems to have more the sense of "remain"-- or can you use that? I could express myself somehow with "se loger" or "héberger", but I just don't feel comfortable that I'm getting to the common, everyday, conversational expression. Maybe it's partly an issue of translation-- maybe the French don't really talk about where someone is going to stay, but rather what hotel they've chosen? or where they're going to lodge? I'm doing this unit with my students, and I want them to be able to express, "I stayed in X hotel." and "If I had had more money, I would have stayed in Y hotel." ... that kind of thing.

    Thanks for any help you can give! I've just never felt right with this :)


  5. Hi Claude, I've been enjoying boudin noir for many years now. A friend in Rouen first made it for me. And I remember having it in restaurants in Paris 20 years ago. Walt is now a convert.

    Judy, your question is one that interests me too. You might say "quand je vais à Paris, je prends une chambre à l'hôtel un tel" or just "je vais à l'hôtel blah-blah-blah..." "Je descends" does sound old-fashioned to me too. What do others say?

  6. Hi Judy,

    When staying in France we (Belgians) often use the verb 'séjourner' or the noun 'séjour: "Nous avons séjourné à hôtel XYZ' or "Nous avons passé un superbe séjour à la chambre d'hôtes ABC".I'm sure Ken can give you more alternatives. Martine

  7. Hello Jim, I'll have to check out the Chenonceaux festival. There's a charcuterie in Noyers called Hentry that seems to sell a lot of boudin noir on Sundays. Next time, that's where I'm buying some. And the charcutier in local markets whose trade name is Doudouille has good boudin antillais, the spicy kind.

  8. To say "when I'm in Paris I stay in a hotel" I think you would just say "quand je suis à Paris je vais à l'hôtel". So you can extend that to "je vais à l'hôtel des Carmes" etc. I think.

  9. I think you can say "rester". Quand nous allons a Paris, nous restons a l'Hotel Crillion ou nous restons avec des amis.

  10. Even though boudins noirs are wonderful here, I'm still squeamish about eating them. I know that's silly.

    I'd go with the "je vais à l'hotel x." to say to stay there. Sejourner sounds really old fashion, even more so than "rester". Hmmm? Je suis restée à l'hotel xy pendant 8 jours. Yes, that works!

  11. Nadege, le Crillon, but of course. The Plaza Athénée is so 2001. ;)


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