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Posts Tagged ‘Mardi Gras’

scenes from an expat’s Mardi Gras

In In My Kitchen on March 7, 2011 at 10:01 pm

There are plenty of us expat New Orleanians here in the DC-Metro area, and plenty of opportunities to celebrate Mardi Gras with our Louisiana peeps, but they generally involve expensive tickets sold by lottery, formalwear, and lining up a babysitter. Since I rarely want to deal with all that, I’ll do something like meet my friend Ryan in Dupont Circle for a taste of home. First stop, The Cajun Experience. The owners are from Lafayette (like Ryan and I). The chef and bartender are from New Orleans. Our waiter was from San Francisco, but we’ll forgive him for that.

Seems like other expats have been pounding the Abitas at the restaurant lately. They were out of a couple of Abita drafts, as well as out of Andy Gator, so we went for Abbey Ale a Belgian style dubbel ale.

Ryan had been to the restaurant before (they’ve only been open about 5 weeks), and he said the hush puppies (often a freebie afterthought in many Louisiana restaurants) were the lightest he’d ever had. He was not exaggerating. These little buggers just about melted on the tongue, and the chipotle sauce was a nice surprise.

We ordered an appetizer portion of crawfish mac-n-cheese. Hardly a traditional dish, but a pairing I was up for after loving crab mac-n-cheese here in Chesapeake country.

Pot roast poboy. I would have liked some debris, the gravy from the bottom of the pot that Mother’s slathers their roast beef poboys with. But, nice tender beef on Leidenheimer French bread shipped in from New Orleans.

We also ordered crawfish etoufee, which we were so busy enjoying I forgot to get a pic. I make a great etoufee at home, but right now even Chinese crawfish tail meat is $16 a pound, and Chinese crawfish is just — wrong.

Anyhoo, I was having such a good time, I let the waiter talk us into beignets, despite our plans to get them in Northern Virginia. Sorry Ry! They were good, but a little doughy.

After a ridiculous drive through Georgetown (reminding me how glad I am I don’t have to commute into DC everyday anymore), we popped into Bayou Bakery in Arlington, Virginia. I picked up som Porkorn (spicy caramel corn with bacon — fantastic) to bring home to hubby.

Somehow we had room for a second dessert, buttermilk chocolate for him, red velvet for me. And an iced coffee to fuel the drive home, also fitting since Ryan introduced me to iced coffee many years ago at PJ’s Coffee in New Orleans.

Decorator’s tip: tear up your old cookbooks and decoupage them all over your bathroom for funky wall paper!

Tomorrow morning as the Krewe of Zulu rides down St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans handing out those legendary coconuts, I’ll be in my boot camp class at the gym, sweating off the calories from the weekend. N’awlins, I miss ya, dahlin. Happy Mardi Gras, y’all.

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brownie winner and king cake recipe

In Food, In My Kitchen on February 27, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Congratulations to Beccie, who is the winner of a pan of peanut-butter pretzel brownies. Thanks for playing!

Below is the king cake recipe I promised earlier. Mardi Gras is March 8 this year. Celebrate with a knock-out pastry.

 

Traditional Mardi Gras King Cake (recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse and Danno)

For the Brioche:

1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)

2 packages dry yeast

2 teaspoons sugar

4 to 5 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

1/2 cup warm milk (105 to 115 degrees)

1/2 cup melted unsalted butter, cooled

5 egg yolks

1 pecan half, uncooked dried bean or King Cake Baby

 

For the Cream Cheese filling:

1 Cup Pecan halves, broken up slightly and roasted until fragrant

2/3 Cup Brown Sugar

1 tsp Vanilla extract

1 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Ground Allspice

1 pinch of salt

4 Tbsp Steen’s Cane Syrup (maple syrup is a decent substitute)

1 8-ounce block cream cheese, softened

Combine all of the ingredients together.

2 cups sifted powdered sugar

juice of 1 lemon

Purple, green and gold sugar crystals

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the warm water, yeast and 2 teaspoons sugar in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside to a warm place for about 10 minutes. Combine the 4 cups of flour, 1/2 cup sugar, salt, nutmeg, lemon rind and add warm milk, melted butter, egg yolks and yeast mixture. Beat until smooth. Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes, I did all mixing and kneading in my stand mixer, but it can be done by hand or in a large food processor). Place the dough in a well-greased bowl. Turn once so greased surface is on top.

Cover the dough and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (about 1 1/2 hours). Punch the dough down and place on a lightly floured surface. Shape the dough into a cylinder, about 30 inches long. Mix all filling ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Spread filling over the middle of the dough cylinder, then fold over the long edges to form a tube, pinching the edges together to form a seal. Move tube to baking sheet. Shape into a ring, pinching ends together to seal. Place a well-greased 2-pound coffee can or shortening can in the center of the ring to maintain shape during baking. Press the King Cake Baby, pecan half or dried bean into the ring from the bottom so that it is completely hidden by the dough. Cover the ring with a towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the coffee can immediately. Allow the cake to cool. For the glaze: Combine the ingredients and beat until smooth. To assemble, drizzle cake with the glaze. Sprinkle with sugar crystals, alternating colors.

 

guerrilla baking (or, why you shouldn’t be afraid of yeast breads)

In In My Kitchen, In Other Words, On My Mind on February 21, 2011 at 8:28 am

I used to be afraid of yeast breads until my homesickness for New Orleans drove me to baking my own King Cake, a sweet bread traditionally served in the Mardi Gras season. I offer this “recipe” to anyone worried about screwing up a recipe requiring yeast. As you’ll see conditions in my kitchen are less than ideal, and we usually do just fine. Real recipe to come later this week.

Mardi Gras King Cake

Clear out space around the stand mixer, ignoring the tower of dirty dishes just beyond sight.

Search for recipe in recipe binder, don’t find it. Pull it out of the pile of recipes waiting to be put back in their proper place.

Yell at the 8yo that she will do nothing fun today until her room is clean.

Ask the 5yo to play with the 11mo in the living room so he is no longer pulling pots and pans out of the cabinet beneath you.

Fearful moment #1: think that you only have one envelope of yeast found with the spices. Feel better when you find three more packets of yeast with — surprise! — the baking supplies.

Mix yeast and sugar with warm water in a small bowl, set on stovetop next to leftover pancakes and bacon grease from breakfast.

In bowl of stand mixer, combine cups flour, (Crap! you only have 2 cups of AP flour. Scrounge 2 more cups of cake flour. Pray you won’t need the fifth cup of flour since all that’s left is whole wheat.) sugar, salt, nutmeg (use a nice heaping teaspoon since it’s old and probably not all that flavorful anymore), lemon rind.

Fearful moment #2: is all the butter in the freezer? Phew. No. Cut up 1 stick of butter into milk and nuke them together. Re-read handwritten note to not forget milk and butter in the microwave like you did the last two times you made this.

Fearful moment #3: There are NO EGGS in the house. No getting around this. Wish you had taken a shower, throw on the jeans you wore last night (bra optional), and run out the door, yelling to your hubby that you have to go to the grocery store before the yeast mixture blows up all over the kitchen.

Drive to the store, listening to local radio station story about how sailboats need to protect themselves from lightening strikes. Start thinking about getting the big kids into swimming lessons before the summer starts. Nearly pass the grocery store because you’ve forgotten what you’re doing. Wonder if you have adult ADD.

Pick up eggs and AP flour, head home.

Wash hands thoroughly, separate eggs with hands, resolve to do something with the growing collection of egg whites in the freezer. Add warm milk, butter, and egg yolks to dry ingredients, start mixing. Second guess starting out with the dough hook instead of the flat mixing paddle. Switch out the dough hook for the paddle. Realize 20 seconds later that the dough hook would have been fine. Mix until well blended,  knead with dough hook, adding last cup of flour until dough is no longer sticky.

Kiss hubby and the big kids as they head out for church. Put the baby down for a nap.

Place the dough in a well-greased bowl. Turn once so greased surface is on top.

Catch up on Facebook. Start a blog entry. Shower. Get dressed, hoping the baby might fall asleep again. Get him a bottle when he doesn’t. Kiss family members returning from church.

Start on filling. Crap. No cream cheese. No vanilla extract. Seriously? Send hubby out for second grocery run of the day.

Punch the dough down and place on a lightly floured surface. Shape the dough into a cylinder, about 30 inches long.

Mix brown sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, ground allspice, salt, maple syrup, and softened cream cheese. Spread filling over middle of dough. Fold edges toward the middle. Shape into a ring, pinching ends together to seal. Place a well-greased 2-pound coffee can or shortening can in the center of the ring to maintain shape during baking. Cover the ring with a towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Throw lunch together, sit down with the family. Don’t eat too much, because, there is, after all, king cake to eat later.

Bake cake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the coffee can immediately. Allow the cake to cool.

Combine confectioner sugar and the lemon juice. Invite very sweet children over. Drizzle glaze over cake. Let kids decorate cake with colored sugar sprinkles.

Cut cake. Enjoy. Listen to hubby say it’s the best king cake you’ve ever made.

Smile.

Crying “Uncle” and Easing My Way into Mardi Gras

In Family, Food, In My Kitchen, Uncategorized on January 26, 2010 at 7:47 pm

Crying “Uncle”

Last week was tough. Hitting the eight-month point in the pregnancy and the associated discomforts might have had something to do with that. And then there were those few nights when I thought I was having labor pains, and the night I actually went into the hospital at 3am after whatever pain I was having didn’t let up after two hours and a shower and several glasses of water.

We had invited friends over for a Mardi Gras dinner of sorts, thinking that we were early enough to avoid my being too tired to host a dinner party. Luckily our friends looked at the dark circles under my eyes and told me that I needed to get over myself. So Richard made the seafood gumbo, I made the king cake (with some help from a friend and her industrial KitchenAid), and we headed to our friends’ house for festivities.

It’s nice to be taken care of, especially when you’re not so good at that whole rest and relaxation thing. I’m officially on it’s-all-about-me time now. A pedicure is in my near future.

Richard doesn’t cook much, basically chili and gumbo. The gumbo part came slowly as I delegated parts of the dish to him here and there over the years. The last two gumbos we’ve made I’ve given him instructions (which he’s largely ignored) but he’s been the one to really make the gumbo. He’s done so well, I’m not so sure I want to do it myself anymore.

Paul Prudhomme’s Cajun Seafood Gumbo with Andouille

We make our roux for gumbo in a 2:1 flour to oil ratio, so we used 1 c flour and 1/2 c oil. Otherwise, we find we end up skimming oil off of finished gumbo. We don’t add the sausage as I’ve never found an andouille in Maryland that I like. And we used closer to 2 pounds of shrimp — no one complained.

2 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 cups chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped celery

Seasoning Mix:
2 whole bay leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper (preferably cayenne)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon minced garlic
5 1/2 cups Basic Seafood Stock

1 pound andouille smoked sausage (preferred) or any other good pure smoked pork sausage such as Polish sausage (kielbasa), cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 pound peeled medium shrimp
1 dozen medium to large oysters in their liquor, about 9 ounces

3/4 pound crabmeat (picked over)
2 1/2 cups hot cooked rice

Combine the onions, bell peppers and celery in a medium-size bowl and set aside. In a small bowl combine the seasoning mix ingredients; mix well and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over high heat until it begins to smoke, about 5 minutes. Gradually add the flour, whisking constantly with a long-handled metal whisk. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until roux is dark red-brown to black, about 2 to 4 minutes, being careful not to let it scorch or splash on your skin. Immediately add half the vegetables and stir well (switch to a spoon if necessary). Continue stirring and cooking about 1 minute. Then add the remaining vegetables and cook and stir about 2 minutes. Stir in the seasoning mix and continue cooking about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic; stir well, then cook and stir about 1 minute more. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, place the stock in a 5 1/2-quart saucepan or large Dutch oven. Bring to a boil. Add roux mixture by spoonfuls to the boiling stock, stirring until dissolved between each addition. Bring mixture to a boil. Add the andouille and return to a boil; continue boiling 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes more. Add the shrimp, undrained oysters and crabmeat. Return to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and skim any oil from the surface. Serve immediately.

To serve as a main course, mound 1/4 cup rice in the middle of each serving bowl. Spoon 1 cup gumbo over the top, making sure each person gets an assortment of the seafood and andouille. Serve half this amount in a cup as an appetizer.