Andouille When it comes to gumbo, red beans, or jambalaya, a Cajun cook's sausage of choice is usually a thick link of andouille (ahn-DOO-wee). Made from coarsely-ground chunks of lean pork shoulder, this garlicky smokehouse specialty is simply spiced (salt, red pepper, black pepper) and slowly smoked over pecan-wood fires.

Though sausage making is notorious for its use of "mystery meats," Cajun andouille is about 95 percent lean with a flavor close to its "on the leg" counterpart -- ham. Browned in a skillet, andouille fills the kitchen with the  aroma of well-smoked bacon. In a gumbo, the chunky pork product imparts an amazing depth of flavor to chicken- or game-based varieties.

Thanks to mass-market packaging concerns, most nationally-distributed andouille looks like any other supermarket kielbasa or garden-variety smoked sausages. In contrast, locally-produced versions can be as big around as an average baseball bat and weigh in at 2-3 pounds apiece.

Order from the Source:

Jacob's World Famous Andouille 505 West Airline Hwy LaPlace, LA 70068 phone 985-652-9080, 877-215-7589

Camellia Red Beans

Hard-core New Orleans chefs accept no substitutes for this local legume on account of their creamy texture. In the Crescent City, it's available in every grocery store. Here in Louisville, it's considered a gourmet specialty item. Go figure.

All-in-One Spice Mix

Also called Cajun or Creole seasoning. Thanks to Paul Prudhomme's Cajun Revolution, there are countless variations of this single-shaker spice mix lining grocery shelves. I'm partial to Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning -- a product of Opelousas, Louisiana -- because I've used the stuff since I started cooking. Try a few different ones and see what suits your palate in terms of heat, flavor and salt content.