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Food & Drink

Food and Beer Pairings for Boudin, Bourbon & Beer

A sneak peek on five food and beer pairings at this year’s Boudin, Bourbon & Beer courtesy of the chefs who created each dish.

Chef creations at Boudin, Bourbon & Beer (Photo: Paul Broussard)

This year’s Boudin, Bourbon and Beer (held Nov. 4 in Champions Square) features increased attention on combining two of the three major components: beer and boudin.

Several area chefs were asked to pair their boudin preparations with Abita beers. Some chefs were inspired by the beer, some looked to contrast the two items, some sought harmony between, others used their beer for cooking.

Beer and food pairings are increasingly popular in New Orleans, and having these high-caliber chefs discuss their process for working with flavor profiles provides a glimpse into the mind of a Southern, Abita-loving chef.

‘Whenever you’re pairing food with a beverage, you’re looking for an interplay that creates balance.’ — Chef Frank Brigtsen

Boudin, Bourbon & Beer takes place Nov. 4 at Champions Square. (Photo: Cheryl Gerber)

Frank Brigsten, Brigsten’s

BBB dish: Smoked mushroom boudin
Paired with: Abita Amber

What was the process in pairing the beer with your boudin preparation?

We have been working on our recipe, doing a lot of research and development, and my goal is to create a full-flavored dish like boudin that has parallel lines. In other words, without the pork, I’m substituting smoked mushrooms for the meaty texture and taste. And I’m using caramelized trinity vegetables — onion, celery, and green peppers — cooked hard until they’re very dark brown and have that depth of flavor. Traditional boudin has liver in it, which gives it a rich, creamy texture that binds it together. In lieu of that, we’re using puree of roasted eggplant and ground pine nuts. I’m working with one of my chefs, Emily Pfeifer, on this. She introduced the pine nuts in the last run of this.

Oftentimes, when you’re creating recipes and you stumble upon something not because of an inspiration you had, but because of what circumstances dictated that you try something. So her idea was based on something she had tasted before and oh, my God, you know what? Mushrooms and pine nuts are like peanut butter and jelly. They are that good together. It’s just that the flavor combination works. So that’s where we’re going with it. And we’re going to wrap the mix into an egg roll wrapper and fry them, so you can pick it up and eat it.

Have you done beer and food pairings before? If so, what’s your general philosophy?

Whenever you’re pairing food with a beverage, you’re looking for an interplay that creates balance. And the smoked mushroom boudin that we made has a very earthy, deep component to it, so I didn’t want to pair it with a deeply flavored, dark beer. I thought that the crisp, clean flavor of the Abita Amber would be the thing, and boy, it works together beautifully. It cuts through like a knife, the flavor, and you get this interplay, top end flavor from the beer and bottom end flavor from the boudin.

What do you like most about working with Abita in a culinary context?

It’s been a focal point from the get go. We are all so appreciative of Abita’s involvement, and of course we support and love local products that are made with care and love. Good people give back and help the community, and Abita’s that kind of operation. So I wanted to embrace that. And they are as creative as any chef in the city. Their line of brews is never ending, the diversity and variety. I’m particularly fond of the seasonal beers, the Harvest beers, like the Abita Strawberry. I always tell people that my favorite food month in New Orleans is March because we have Louisiana strawberries, crawfish are at their peak, and oysters are at their peak. And that [Abita] strawberry beer with boiled crawfish is a match that really shines. The thing about seasonal eating and drinking is that it’s there for a limited amount of time, so you appreciate it all the more. I think that’s a big key to their brewing.

Abita Coffee Stout. (Courtesy Photo)

Cory Bahr, Heritage BBQ

BBB dish: Smoked duck boudin, foie gras, vanilla pickled beets, charred pineapple
Paired with: Abita Coffee Stout

What was the process in pairing the beer with your boudin preparation?

Having been very familiar with that coffee stout, I really enjoyed it, and knowing that the inherent flavors of coffee (it being roasted, so there’s a slight smokiness), the stout has a creaminess and a richness. There’s vanilla notes, and I’m thinking about the vanilla pickled beets and the smoky duck. And the char of the pineapple, I was like, wow, that’s gonna work, so I went and got some from my local distributor, paired it together, and thought, “Damn, that’s pretty tasty.”

When you’re thinking about how pairings should work, theoretically, you’re trying to pair underlying notes. It’s all about complementing one another. So it was just about matching notes that made me select the Abita Coffee Stout for that.

Have you done beer and food pairings before? If so, what’s your general philosophy?

Beer pairings are super fun. Beer is just as complex and vibrant as wine. It may be something that a lot of chefs aren’t familiar with right off the bat, but I think the fun thing about tasting food and tasting beers is, the more you taste, the more you understand. Nobody’s ever going to get mad about tasting more beer.

It’s the same thing you do with a wine pairing: you have to pick a direction. You can throw people off, start with something heavy and end with something light and crisp; it’s really up to you as the chef. I think sometimes it’s fun to throw people off a little bit by going in reverse, or mixing it up. Put a stout in the middle and pair it with something that’s rich but has a little bit of acidity to cut through it. There are so many ways to do it, but I think you have to pick some sort of rhythm.

Great Raft, out of Shreveport, I actually did their first beer dinner. Beer pairings have come out and gained a lot of popularity over the last 5-10 years with the advent of all these craft breweries, the government wising up and realizing it’s great for a community to have an identity. Especially an identity through beer. I think that there’s a lot of hometown pride, especially small towns like where I’m from. They get behind their local brewery. It’s like the home team.

What are your personal favorite beer styles just for drinking and hanging out? Favorite Abita? Favorite other local beer?

Parish Brewing’s Canebrake. I also enjoy that Commotion APA from Great Raft as well. I think there’s a lot of grapefruit note in that, a lot of citrus, and a little bit of hard spice that I think is pretty cool. And it has some legs to it. I think it’s one of the most interesting beers being brewed, from a drinkability standpoint, while being interesting at the same time. I think it’s one of the better ones produced in Louisiana.

I’m a simple dude when it comes to Abita. I was just down there a couple weeks ago, at the brewery, and they have these super interesting beers that don’t leave the brewery. But for me, I’m an Abita Amber guy. I just am. Not only is it great to drink, but it’s awesome to cook with as well. Whether it’s catching a buzz or barbecuing shrimp, Abita Amber always works.

Abita Turbo Dog. (Courtesy photo)

Eason Barksdale, Bayona

BBB dish: Abita Turbodog brisket and cheddar boudin
Paired with: Abita Turbodog

What was the process in pairing the beer with your boudin preparation?

I’m not actually pairing, I’m using it as an ingredient. It was funny how it happened — I heard my bartender talking about beer and cheese soup, and I thought, hey, I haven’t thought about that for a while, and then the conversation fell out of my head. Then the Emeril Foundation called and told me about using Abita to pair or cook with. I saw the Turbodog on the list of beers and I started thinking about French onion soup, sometimes you can substitute beer instead of wine. Then I thought, “Oh yeah, beer and cheese soup!” That was my inspiration.

And then I thought, what kind of sausage preparation do I want? I thought about kielbasa because oftentimes it’s made of both pork and beef, so that gave me the brisket idea. It’s in the conceptualizing stages still. I’m not sure how I’m going to serve it; maybe individual cabbage rolls breaded and deep fried. Last year I did the corn dog, so I like to be a little creative.

Turbodog is something I’ve cooked with in the past, and I know its flavors. It’s especially great for fall. I’m just going to cook the hell out of some onions with the Turbodog until it’s almost like a paste. That’ll help bind everything together. It’s the structure, the platform for my boudin.

We use Abita Amber in our smothered greens. We smoke our onions so to emulate smoked meat, and the beer just gives it those yeasty undertones that you would find in marmite.

What is your favorite Abita beer?

I like that Wrought Iron IPA that came out and the Andygator — I’ve always been a fan.

Sliced boudin. (Photo: Cheryl Gerber)

Richard Sutton, St. James Cheese

BBB dish: Boudin Grilled Cheese with Bourbon Mustard and Beer Pickles
Paired with: Abita Wrought Iron IPA

What was the process in pairing the beer with your boudin preparation?

We kind of knew what it was we were looking for when we started: we needed something with a bit of kick to balance out the rich sandwich. When pairing, we always start with the beer first, then taste the food, then back to the beer. We were looking for how the two items worked together in your mouth. In this case, we needed something to cut through the richness and fat of the boudin, cheese, and butter that was making the sandwich a bit heavy. The Wrought Iron IPA absolutely lit up the flavors in the boudin, and cleaned up our palettes perfectly.

What did you enjoy about the pairing process or find challenging?

Pairing foods is always fun because of the many new flavors that often emerge from the process. Although folks sometimes are inclined to follow absolute rules and traditional combinations, we prefer to approach each combination with an open mind. This is challenging because it is more likely that a combination will fail than succeed, but the reward is sometimes finding new flavors in unexpected pairings.

Have you done beer and food pairings before? If so, what’s your general process/philosophy?

We do food pairings all the time, though generally only with cheese. It is integral to our cheese classes and menu selections. Our philosophy is anything is possible, but in determining the overall success of the pairing, the golden rule is always to seek combinations that allow each component to retain their original character and personality. We don’t like combinations in which one item beats the other down, or strips out its basic flavor, or “solves a problem” flavor in one of the items, i.e. a very bitter food, stinky cheese, tannic wine etc. We seek a combination that elevates each component.

What is your favorite Abita beer?

I have been an Abita fan since I first arrived in New Orleans in 1990. When I left the city after college, I used to get a beer distributor in Maryland (even though I lived in Delaware) to bring in Turbo Dog that I would subsequently share with my friends. It’s a terrific beer, and I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Turbo Dog.

A selection of Abita beers. (Courtesy photo)

Will Avelar, Meril

BBB dish: Boudin tamale with tomatillo salsa
Paired with: Abita Amber

What was the process in pairing the beer with your boudin preparation?

For the pairings, I had a lot of help from Chef Emeril himself. He and I were in the kitchen at Meril, and I told him I needed a beer to pair with the boudin tamale. We took four different beers, one of them was the Peach, we did the Andygator, the Turbodog, and the regular Abita Amber.

Before we even paired them with anything, Chef Emeril calls it. “Abita Amber, watch.”

So we tasted them all together. It was a toss up between the Abita Amber and the Turbodog, and we were like, yeah, Abita Amber is the way to go. It’s just so clean and fresh, and the boudin is so strongly flavored that it complemented it very well.

He knew the flavor, he knew what it was going to be like, and that’s what we went with.

What did you enjoy about the pairing process?

It was cool to nail something down with Chef Emeril himself, and be able to do the pairing like that. That was my favorite part, just working with him, together.

Have you done beer and food pairings before? If so, what’s your general process/philosophy?

I’ve done beer pairings when I was at Delmonico. We did one Abita beer dinner and we did a NOLA Brewery dinner as well. My philosophy is, let the pairings shine more than anything else, as opposed to trying to pull out every single detail. Try to figure out what actually works. We’re not trying to do rocket science over here, but if the Peach somehow enhances the peach in the dish; we also tried to take the mash and make bread out of it. If there are any chocolate notes, we would use a chocolate dessert, stouts, and things like that.

Honestly? We just try to have fun with it. That’s the best thing to do, have fun with it, and taste some great great beers and think about what would pair well with it.

What are your personal favorite beer styles just for drinking and hanging out? Favorite Abita? Favorite other local beer?

For Abita, I enjoy the Andygator. I enjoy the Amber as well. Then for other local beers, I’m a big fan of Canebrake on tap and NOLA Blonde.

Nora McGunnigle is a freelance beer and food writer in New Orleans, where she focuses on the unique food and beer culture of Louisiana and the Gulf region. Her work can be found in publications like Beer Advocate, Thrillist, and Eater NOLA. You can often find her holding important meetings at the Avenue Pub. Follow her on Twitter at @noradeirdre and keep up with her work at

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