Louisiana Andouille: This Must be LaPlace
by Pableaux Johnson
originally published in the New Orleans Times-Picayune
In south Louisiana, much of a cook’s repertoire depends on the quality of their sources. Just about anybody can make a pot of creamy red beans, but the outstanding versions incorporate spicy smoked sausages made by local butcher shops. Great gumbos rely on crabs pulled fresh from the Gulf of Mexico and shrimp caught by a boat-bound brother-in-law. The difference is noticeable and the proof is on the palate.
In their written form, Louisiana recipes recognize that Louisiana’s indigenous ingredients, tied as they are to local producers and edible artisans of the Bayou State, can be hard to find. Cooks trying to make jambalaya in Chicago, will read past the phrase “andouille sausage” and see that often they can substitute “Polish kielbasa, hot links, or other spicy sausage.” But once you get a taste of the good stuff — fresh-trapped deep water crawfish from the watery Atchafalaya Basin or tasty hot boudin stuffed with local rice — you’ll realize what all the fuss is about.
Sometimes, these ingredients are available at modern gourmet markets or specialty food boutiques, but in south Louisiana, these traditional products are most often found in more traditional outlets, including seafood markets, roadside stands, or smokehouses.
And nowhere is this more true than with true Louisiana andouille — a meaty pork sausage that’s used to flavor countless classic Louisiana dishes. The smoky flavor of andouille (pronounced ahn-DOO-wee) is a cornerstone flavor of classic jambalaya, gumbos, and bean dishes.
Cut into a thick link of Louisiana andouille , and you’ll see a straightforward sausage that’s a lot more meat than mystery. Instead of using the cuttings and other “miscellaneous” meats from the butcher shop, traditional Louisiana andouille recipes call for chunks of pork shoulder (often called the “Boston butt” cut of the hog). Simply spiced with garlic, curing salts and various peppers, andouille is a chunky sausage that bears more resemblance to a cylindrical ham than the continental French tripe sausage of the same name. Browned in a cast iron skillet, andouille gives off the aroma of well-smoked bacon.
The best Louisiana sausage can be found in the region’s small town meat markets. These often tiny shops are famed for their mult — for their specialty sausages, for their spice mixes, for their inventive meaty treats (chickens stuffed with savory crawfish jambalaya, thick pork chops stuffed with country sausage dressing, the infamous multi-poultry turducken).
And if you’re looking for smoky satisfaction, two markets in Laplace, Louisiana — Bailey’s Famous and Jacob’s World Famous Andouille — deserve special consideration. LaPlace, located 30 miles from New Orleans in St. John the Baptist parish, is home to a long-time andouille tradition and has held the state-sanctioned title “Andouille Capitol of the World” since the 1970s.
Both Bailey’s and Jacob’s make their andouille the old-fashioned way: made with chunks of pork shoulder, spiced simply but boldly, and dried in small cypress smokehouse over smoldering pecan-wood fires. The main difference is the smoking times — Bailey’s leaves their sausages in the smokehouse for about six hours, making for a moister sausage, while Jacob’s smokes theirs for 10-12 hours for a drier texture and smokier flavor.
And it’s the adherence to traditional methods and recipes that makes Laplace andouille so special
Both shops cater mainly to the local drive-in trade — lucky locals driving in from various parts of the state to stock up — but recently, Jacob’s has started shipping vacuum-packed products to customers outside Louisiana. (See listing below.)
Once you’ve used authentic andouille in your own kitchen, you’ll be amazed at the differences in flavor and quality of the finished dishes. Start off with the products prized by Louisiana cooks and you’ll realize the value of good sources and the proper ingredients. As always, the proof is in the pot and on the palate.
Bailey’s Famous Andouille
513 West Airline Highway
LaPlace LA 70068
Jacob’s World Famous Andouille
505 West Airline Highway
LaPlace LA 70068
fax (985) 652-9022,
toll free (877) 215-7589