The Anatomy of West Bridge’s ‘Pompous Hot Dog’
Matthew Gaudet’s boudin blanc is one part Thomas Keller, one part ‘inner fat kid.’
West Bridge’s Matthew Gaudet might have the most polished résumé in the city with former stints at Eleven Madison Park, The French Launry, Jean-Georges, and Aquavit. But when you ask the humble, perpetually buoyant chef about his early career, the first dish he recalls with reverence isn’t Thomas Keller’s infamous nine-course tasting menu or Marcus Samuelsson’s lauded Scandinavian cuisine.
“I can remember eating at Bouchon [Bistro] when I was still working at The French Laundry and I had the most ridiculous boudin blanc for lunch,” Gaudet says. “It was covered in onions and tomatoes, and for some reason, it was something that just always stuck in my head. Boudin is something that I’ll play with from time to time because I’ve always wanted to mimic that lunch at Bouchon.”
Gaudet’s latest creation at West Bridge pays homage to that memorable meal in Napa. The newest addition to his charcuterie selection—an off-menu indulgence whose sporadic appearances are announced via Twitter and Instagram—the boudin dog veers away from West Bridge’s typical terrines and pates in favor of a twist on classic ballpark fare.
“Our forager guys in Portland went down to Virginia and picked us some great ramps,” Gaudet says. “I thought, ‘what can I do with all these ramps?’ Kimchi and relish came to mind, so I said, ‘let’s just make hot dogs!’”
The boudin dog combines pork shoulder, chicken breasts, and chicken fat with a cream infusion that has been reduced down with mushrooms, onions, and other aromatics. Gaudet then adds egg whites and emulsifies the mixture in a Robot Coupe to create a silky mousse. Afterward, everything is stuffed into a crispy lamb casing that emulates the same girth and snap of a frankfurter.
“At first it was too boudin-y and we wanted this to really have more a hot dog texture,” Gaudet says. “So now we dry them for a day and poach them to order. It’s a classic sausage, but it’s a lot less aggressive than country or coarse-ground examples. There’s something velvety and delicious about it. It’s like a play on bologna or a pompous version of a hot dog.”
Each boudin dog is topped with an array of condiments including the aforementioned ramps, its bulbs pickled and its leaves fermented into a spicy kimchi. Gaudet eschews yellow mustard for whole mustard seeds pickled in a chardonnay vinegar. He smears each bun with a pimento cheese spread made from canned pimentos, heavy cream, and Narragansett Angelito. The only nod to Gaudet’s ongoing “hot dog fetish”? Doughy white Quinzani buns made in the vein of New England split-tops.
“I’m not a big bun snob.” Gaudet says. “I’m not going to go out of my way to make a brioche bun or something ‘artisanal.’ Burgers and dogs should be messy around the corners of the mouth, and they should have a nice squishy bun. It should be soft enough to where you can squish into a ball. I intentionally made this dish for kitchen folk or the customer who might want to get a little bit grimier. We channeled our inner fat kid, which is what we typically do for the Latest Project on our charcuterie menu. We all cook out of our memories, and this really taps into mine.”
For now, Gaudet’s boudin dog is only available on the “bridge” menu proffered between lunch and dinner. He typically limits production to two dozen or less and reserves them for special occasions such as holidays and important Red Sox homestands. Later this summer though, Gaudet is planning on introducing a lower patio menu, where the boudin dog could find a regular home.
1 Kendall Square, Cambridge; 617-946-0221 or westbridgerestaurant.com.