by Ian McNulty
I happen to live within walking distance of my two favorite sausage makers in New Orleans the Creole Country sausage plant on David Street, well hidden down a side street and built out from an old shotgun house; and the deli counter of Terranova Supermarket on Esplanade Avenue, a classic corner market run by the same family since 1925. I insist this proximity is a coincidence, but it certainly is convenient for someone who has more than a passing interest in the meat grinder's produce. When I want to make a Monday pot of red beans, I can dash over to Terranova and get a pound of fresh hot sausage to spike things up. Their Italian is peerless. And Creole Country? Gaw, where to start? The place turns out an amazing array of pork products, including a hogshead cheese that is so good even people who "don't like" hogshead cheese make an exception when I put a block of it out at parties.
So, in terms of sausage, I've long assumed I had it made in my neighborhood. But that was before I learned about LaPlace and its andouille. The town hosts an annual andouille festival, crowns its own andouille queen and on a per capita basis must have more smokehouses specializing in andouille than anywhere else. Thick, dark and firm, it seems like a whole different animal from the andouille we get here in New Orleans, thanks to the long, slow smoking process these andouille makers use.
Of course these places make a lot of other stuff. At Jacob's, for instance, I picked up a snack pack of short, thin, smoky little sticks of sausage, which were like something between a link of sausage and a Slim Jim. One unfamiliar item found at Bailey's is boudin made without the rice, which seemed more classically French than Cajun. It has a heavy liver component and, without the body of the rice, it is butter smooth. We used it more like a pate, heating it through, discarding the casing and spreading it on crackers. And at WJ's Smokehouse, which also doubles as a restaurant, the plain old smoked sausage is good enough to transform an ordinary plate of beans into something worth crossing the Bonnet Carre Spillway for all on its own.
WJ's even has a bin of smoked bones for dogs, which in my household proved an effective bribe to keep the pets occupied all day on Thanksgiving while human food swirled around them. If the dogs only knew my intended destination the next time I set out on the 30-mile drive up to LaPlace to stock up again on that incomparable andouille, they'd be sitting, laying, rolling over and begging for me to bring them along for the ride.