News & Politics

Boudin Blanc at Marcel’s

Robert Wiedmaier has mastered the art of French sausage-making.

Making an ethereally light boudin blanc–the most popular dish on the menu at Marcel's–takes a blend of culinary skill: the patience of a pastry chef, a delicate touch, and the muscle of, well, chef and proprietor Robert Wiedmaier, a six-foot-two hulk with a Harley-Davidson T-shirt visible beneath his chef's whites.

What's so hard about making sausage? You try whipping at a frenzied pace for nearly an hour. "Half my cooks can't do it," he whispers.

The process begins during a late-afternoon lull in the kitchen. Into a whirring meat grinder Wiedmaier feeds a trio of chilled meats: equal parts sliced Hudson Valley foie gras, D'Artagnan free-range pheasant, and skinned chicken breast. The meat gets a second slow grinding, then is pressed through a mesh strainer to remove the sinew. A splash of thick cream, a heavy handful of salt, and the whipping begins.

Sweat pours from Wiedemaier's brow as he slaps at the mixture with a spatula. A half hour later, the pale-pink fluff has taken on a porcelain sheen and more than doubled in size. The chef seasons the smooth grind with "bird gloss"–a mahogany-color reduction of duck and chicken stocks–and a few drops of white-truffle oil.

A quick test of the mixture, poured into a ramekin and baked, tells him it's too rubbery. More cream.

Perfect. Now he pipes the mixture into a hog's intestine to give it shape. It won't stay there long. The chef poaches each sausage in chicken stock and releases it from its casing before plating it.

This painstaking prep yields just 16 links–but untold pleasures at the table. The result is as airy and delicate as the lace curtains that shade the dining room from Pennsylvania Avenue. The boudins, lightly browned, are nestled in a mound of almost peppery celery-root purée and crowned with a mélange of sautéed chanterelle and lobster mushrooms.

One bite unleashes a cache of little luxuries: a quick stroke of white truffle, deeper hints of duck and pheasant, and a trace of buttery cream that intensifies the foie gras.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.