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Archive for Mardi Gras

TIP OF THE DAY: Make Beignets For Mardi Gras

Celebrating the Carnival season, Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) has been a state holiday in Louisiana since the 19th century. So evoke Mardi Gras and New Orleans with a batch of homemade beignets.

WHAT’S MARDI GRAS?

The Carnival season begins on or after the Epiphany or Kings Day (January 6th) and culminates on the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday refers to the practice of eating richer, fatty foods the last night before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday.

Mardi Gras is sometimes referred to as Shrove Tuesday, from the word shrive, meaning “confess.” But the idea of rich foods is far more appealing.

Why “Carnival?” Centuries of years ago, Catholics in Italy started the tradition of holding a wild costume festival right before the first day of Lent. It stuck, engendering huge Carnival events elsewhere, including New Orleans and Rio de Janiero.

 

pineapple-beignets-orsay-230

Beignets should be enjoyed warm, with a cup of strong coffee. Photo courtesy Orsay | New York City.

 
WHAT’S A BEIGNET?

A beignet (pronounced bayn-YAY, the french word for bump) is deep-fried choux pastry dough.

It’s a fritter similar to the German Spritzkuchen, the Italian zeppole and the Spanish churro. It can take on different shapes and flavorings depending on local preferences.

  • In New Orleans, beignets are like doughnut holes, typically sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar. They’ve caught on at stylish restaurants nationwide, which serve them as dessert with a dipping sauce.
  • In France, the term refers to a variety of fried-dough pastry shapes with fruit fillings.
  • Beignets made with yeast pastry are called Berliners Pfannkuchen in Germany (the equivalent of an American jelly doughnut) and boules de Berlin in French.
  •  
    Beignets were brought to Louisiana by the Acadians, immigrants from Canada,* whose fritters were sometimes filled with fruit. Today’s beignets are a square or round piece of dough, fried and covered with powdered sugar. The fruit (in the form of jam) is now served, optionally, on the side.

    The beignets at Café du Monde in New Orleans are worth going out of your way for (they taste best at the main location). After buying their mix and making them at home, we were unable to match the glory of the original, although we admit, we did not use cottonseed oil as they do.

    In New Orleans, the beignet is also known as the French Market doughnut, and it is the Louisiana State doughnut. (How many states have an official state doughnut?)

    At Café du Monde, beignets are served in orders of three. The cafe is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except for Christmas Day.
     
    HOW TO EAT A BEIGNET

    In New Orleans, beignets are served with the local favorite, chicory-laced coffee.

    You can enjoy them plain, with fruit curd or jam or with chocolate sauce.
     
    *The Acadians are the descendants of the 17th-century French colonists who settled in Acadia. That colony was located in what is now Eastern Canada’s Maritime provinces—New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island—as well as part of Quebec and present-day Maine to the Kennebec River. Acadia was a distinctly separate colony of New France (which became Canada); the Acadians and Québécois developed two distinct histories and cultures. (Source: Wikipedia)

     

    beignets-duplexonthird-230

    Without the confectioners’ sugar. Photo
    courtesy Duplex On Third | Los Angeles.

     

    The recipe below is from Nielsen-Massey, manufacturer of some of the finest extracts in the world, including the vanilla extract used in the recipe.

    RECIPE: VANILLA BEIGNET BITES

    Ingredients For 6 Dozen Beignets

  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE warm water, yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar n a small bowl; set aside to activate yeast. In a medium bowl, add butter, half-and-half and vanilla extract; stir and set aside. In a small bowl whisk eggs; set aside.

    2. COMBINE flour, sugar, salt and cardamom in a bowl of a free standing electric mixer. Place bowl on mixer stand which has been fitted with a dough hook. Turn mixer on low speed and combine dry ingredients. Turn mixer to medium speed then add activated yeast mixture. Add half-and-half mixture, then add the whisked eggs. Mix until well combined, scraping the sides of the bowl when necessary. Dough will be slightly sticky.

    3. PLACE dough on a lightly floured surface and knead, about 2-3 minutes; add additional flour if needed. Lightly coat a large bowl with cooking spray and place dough into the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and keep warm until dough has doubled in size, about 2 hours. After dough has risen, place on a lightly floured surface and gently knead. Roll dough into a rectangle, about ¼-inch thick. With a pizza cutter, cut dough into small rectangles, about 1 x ½-inch pieces.

    4. HEAT oil to 375°F. Carefully place dough in hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 45-60 seconds. Turn beignets so that both sides are golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Dust with Vanilla Powdered Sugar (recipe below) while bites are still warm. Serve with plain, with chocolate sauce, lemon curd or raspberry jam.
     
    VANILLA POWDERED SUGAR

    Ingredients For 1/2 Cup

  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla powder
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE ingredients in a small bowl.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Easy Gumbo For Mardi Gras

    Mardi Gras begins tomorrow. If you’d like to celebrate with the taste of New Orleans, whip up a gumbo.

    This recipe is from Chef David Venable of QVC, who calls it “an easy-to-tackle version, filled with great Louisiana flavor and spice.” Gumbos have a lot of ingredients, but the cooking technique isn’t demanding.

    Says David, “When preparing, be sure to chop your veggies in similar sizes to ensure that they cook at the same rate.” In this recipe, okra is used as a thickener, and also gives personality to the gumbo.
     
    RECIPE: CHICKEN & SAUSAGE GUMBO WITH
    OKRA

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 tablespoon + 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs,
    chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon Creole seasoning
  • 1 pound andouille sausage, chopped
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 cups onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 9 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup uncooked long grain rice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 package (1 lb, 4 oz) frozen sliced okra
  •  

    Chicken-Sausage-Gumbo_davidvenableQVC-230L

    An easy gumbo, with chicken, okra and sausage. Photo courtesy QVC.

     

    Plus

  • Chopped fresh parsley for garnish
  • Cooked rice for serving
  •  

    okra4365123Dreamstime

    Most people are familiar with okra that’s
    been sliced crosswise. Here’s what it looks
    like right off the plant. Photo by
    DallasEventsInc. | Dreamstime.

     

    Preparation

    1. SEASON the chicken thighs with creole seasoning. Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in a 6-quart or larger stockpot over medium-high heat. Brown the sausage and set aside.

    2. ADD the chicken to the pot with the sausage drippings and cook over medium-high heat until brown on both sides. Remove the chicken and set aside.

    3. ADD the remaining 1/2 cup of oil and the flour, over medium heat. Cook the mixture, stirring slowly and constantly, for 10-15 minutes, or until dark brown. Be careful not to burn or scorch.

    4. ADD the onions, garlic, celery and bell pepper and cook for 5 minutes. Slowly add the broth and stir until there are no lumps. Add the tomatoes, rice, salt, cayenne, bay leaves, thyme, and okra. Stir and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer for 10 minutes.

    5. ADD the chicken and cooked sausage to the gumbo. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaves, plate, garnish with a sprinkle of parsley and serve with a side of rice.

     

      

    Comments

    MARDI GRAS: Gumbalaya Recipe

    Gumba-what?

    If you can’t decide between gumbo or jambalaya for Mardi Gras (this year on March 4th), go for gumbalaya, a combination of both.

  • Gumbo is a Cajun stew that typically consists of a strongly meat or shellfish stock, the Cajun “trinity” (bell peppers and onions), and a variety of proteins such as andouille sausage, chicken and shrimp, served with rice. Okra is often used as a thickener. The name is believed to derive from the Bantu word for okra, ki ngombo.
  • Jambalaya, a rice dish related to paella, is Cajun by way of the Caribbean Islands. The Spanish residents mixed native ingredients with stock and rice. The Atakapa tribe of the Southeastern U.S. contributed the name: The phrase “Sham, pal ha! Ya!” means “Be full, not skinny! Eat Up!,” the equivalent of “Bon appétit!” Here’s a recipe.
  •  
    And gumbalaya?

    After the widespread popularity of the cronut, Chef Mike Valentine of Ford’s Oyster House in Greenville, South Carolina thought it would be fun to create a mash-up of the two Cajun classics.

     

    louisiana-gumbo-mackenzie-230

    A classic Louisiana gumbo. Photo courtesy MackenzieLtd.com.

     

    RECIPE: FORD’S GUMBALAYA

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup flour
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup green peppers, diced
  • 1/3 cup celery, diced
  • 1/3 cup onion, diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon oregano
  • ¼ tsp dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce (Chef Mike uses Crystal brand)
  • 2 teaspoons Creole seasoning*
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 pound chicken boneless skinless breasts
  • 1 pound andouille† sausage
  •  
    Plus

  • 2 baguettes, cut into long slices and toasted (see photo below)
  •  
    *You can buy or make your own Creole seasoning. Here’s Emeril Lagasse’s version, which makes about 2/3 cup: Thoroughly blend 2-1/2 tablespoons paprika, 2 tablespoons salt, 2 tablespoons garlic powder, 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper, 1 tablespoon onion powder, 1 tablespoon cayenne, 1 tablespoon dried oregano and 1 tablespoon dried thyme. Store in an airtight container away from light. Use within three months.

     

    gumbalaya-best-fordsoysterhouse-230r

    Chef Mike Valentine’s new classic,
    gumbalaya. Photo courtesy Ford’s Oyster
    House.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Place chicken in a roasting pan and cook for 20 minutes. Let it stand for five minutes after taking it out of the oven, then cut into half inch pieces.

    2. COOK andouille sausage in the oven for 8 minutes at 350°F. Let it stand for 5 minutes.

    3. PLACE butter and flour in large saucepan. Turn on medium heat and cook while stirring constantly, until it becomes a light chocolate color. ADD green peppers, celery, onion, chicken, andouille sausage and bay leaves.

    4. ADD chicken stock, stirring constantly so the roux fully incorporates with the stock.

    5. ADD black pepper, cayenne pepper, Creole seasoning, hot sauce, oregano and thyme. Let the gumbo cook for 15 minutes. Add salt as needed.
     
    †FOOD TRIVIA: Andouille, pronounced on-DWEE, is a spicy smoked sausage made with pork and garlic. The word is French, from the Old French andoille. Andoille dervies from the Medieval Latin inductilia, things to be introduced, from the Latin inductus, past participle of indUcere, “to introduce into a casing.” Whew!

     

    RECIPE: JAMBALAYA SAUCE

    Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup celery, diced
  • ¼ cup onion, diced
  • ¼ cup bell pepper, diced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • 3 cups basic marinara sauce
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 cups cooked white rice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add celery, onion and bell pepper and cook for 5-6 minutes.

    2. ADD garlic, fresh thyme, oregano, cayenne, Creole seasoning, crushed red pepper flakes and hot sauce. Lastly, add the marinara sauce and simmer for 10 minutes. Salt to taste.

    3. ADD cooked rice to jambalaya sauce; combine thoroughly. SERVE Serve gumbo in bowl with a heaping scoop of jambalaya/rice mixture and a side of toasted French bread. Option: Garnish with a sprinkle of cayenne and thyme (see photo).

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Mardi Gras Colored Cocktails

    Mardi Gras is Tuesday, March 4th. You may not want to celebrate Mardi Gras in the traditional way, with Cajun and Creole cuisine, a King Cake and long strands of party beads.

    But you can serve classic New Orleans cocktails like the Hurricane, which has its own special hurricane lamp-shaped glass; or the Sazerac, the official cocktail of New Orleans; a combination of cognac or rye whiskey, absinthe and bitters.

    Or, you can whip up a menu of cocktails in Mardi Gras’ theme colors of purple, gold and green.

    The colors were suggested by the Russian Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich Romanov in 1872, during his visit to New Orleans:

  • Purple represents justice
  • Gold represents power
  • Green represents faith
  •  
    But when applied to colored cocktails, they represent a good time.

    Thanks to Hendrick’s Gin for providing this idea, along with a Purple Basil Gimlet recipe below.

     

    Purple-Haze-pomwonderful-230

    A Purple Haze from Pom Wonderful. In the background, a Midori “Cosmopolitan”. Photo courtesy Pom Wonderful.

     

    We’ve made suggestions for purple, gold and green cocktails; you can easily find many recipes online. We’ve made simple cocktail suggestions below, e.g. vodka with a green liqueur. But you can add more ingredients, as long as they don’t decrease the intensity of the color.
     
    PURPLE COCKTAILS

  • Juice. Mix a clear spirit with currant juice or grape juice. Drinks with pomegranate juice (e.g., a Pomtini) can work, but they made need a touch of blackberry liqueur or blue Curaçao to make them more purple than red.
  • Liqueur. Add a touch of blackberry brandy, Black Sambuca, crème de cassis, grape schnapps, liqueur de violette or Parfait Amour, a purple liqueur based on Curaçao.
  • Soda. Add your favorite clear spirit to grape soda (one of our college favorites was Purple Passion, vodka and grape soda).
  • Vodka: Check out UV Purple Vodka, colored purple.
  • Food color: Color anything clear or white with these formulas from McCormick(25 drops equal 1/4 teaspoon food color: purple = 150 drops neon purple + 30 drops neon blue, gold = 100 drops yellow + 5 drops red; green = 150 drops green, 6 drops black. Make mocktails with lemon-lime or club soda.
  •  

    vip-cocktail-delfrisco-230s

    The VIP is the signature cocktail at Del
    Frisco’s Steak House. Photo courtesy Del
    Frisco’s.

     

    GOLD (YELLOW) COCKTAILS

  • Bellini & Mimosa. Almost everyone will be happy with these two famous yellow cocktails: Bellini (peach purée and sparkling wine) and Mimosa (orange juice & vodka), both bright and opaque.
  • Juice. Blend any clear spirit with mango juice, orange juice, peach nectar or pineapple juice.
  • Liqueur. Blend any clear spirit with Limoncello or Galliano; the most famous Galliano drink is the Harvey Wallbanger. Other yellow liqueurs include Chartreuse and Strega.
  • Martini. Try a Lemon Drop Martini (1-1/2 ounces vodka, ideally citrus-flavored; 1/2 ounce orange liqueur, 1 teaspoon superfine sugar, 3/4 ounce freshly-squeezed lemon juice).
  • Vodka. UV Vanilla Vodka has a light yellow hue.
  •  

    GREEN COCKTAILS

  • Grasshopper. This minty chocolate cocktail classic consists of 3/4 ounce cream, 3/4 ounce white creme de cacao and 3/4 ounce green creme de menthe. Shake with ice and pour into a Martini glass.
  • Liqueur. Anything with Midori melon liqueur or apple schnapps, both of which have a bright green color. Other green liqueurs include absinthe, green chartreuse, green creme de menthe and TY KU liqueur.
  • Martini. An appletini with sour apple schnapps. The more schnapps, the greener.
  • Vodka. UV Apple Vodka, which is made with a bright green color.
  •  
    GARNISHES

    Add a garnish in a different Mardi Gras color from the cocktail.

  • Purple Garnish: blackberries or blueberries on a cocktail pick; a cube of purple Jell-O (make gelatin in a pan, cut in garnish-size squares, place on picks and freeze).
  • Gold/Yellow Garnish: cape gooseberry, lemon curl, orange peel, pineapple, yellow Jell-O cube.
  • Green Garnish: basil leaf, mint leaf, rosemary sprig.
  •  
    RECIPE: PURPLE BASIL GIMLET

    Ingredients For 1 Cocktail

  • 2 ounces Hendrick’s Gin
  • ½ ounce fresh lime juice
  • ½ ounce simple syrup
  • 4-6 leaves purple basil
  •  
    Preparation

    Press purple basil leaves with simple syrup and fresh lime juice, add Hendrick’s Gin and shake well, strain up into a stemmed glass, garnish with a sprig of purple basil.
     
    It’s party time!

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Spiced Pecans

    Spiced pecans are fun to make and
    fun to eat. Photo courtesy Spice Islands.

     

    Mardi Gras is on Tuesday, but you don’t have to head to New Orleans or Rio de Janeiro to celebrate. Invite people over for celebratory cocktails, served up with spiced pecans and some New Orleans jazz. (And why not some colorful costumes?)

    Spiced nuts are very versatile. Use them:

  • As snacks
  • As garnish for cakes, cupcakes, puddings, ice cream and other treats
  • In salads with goat cheese or blue cheese
  • As sides with coffee, tea and hot chocolate
  • As gifts, in a small tin, plastic container or cellophane bag tied with ribbon
  •  
    Get a recipe for spiced nuts.

    Here’s a recipe for making candied nuts of any type.

     

    WHAT IS MARDI GRAS?

    Mardi Gras, pronounced MAR-dee GRAH, is part of the Catholic Carnival celebration beginning on Epiphany and ending the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras, called Shrove Tuesday in English, is French for “Fat Tuesday.”

    The “fat” refers to the last night that one can eat richer, fatty foods (meat, dairy, fats and sugar) before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which starts the following day, Ash Wednesday. “Shrove” is the past participle of the verb “to shrive,” meaning “to obtain absolution for one’s sins through confession and doing penance.”

    No parties or celebrations are held during Lent, the six week period prior to Easter that represents the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness. The Mardi Gras parades, festivals and masquerades in colorful costumes mark the transition from traditional daily life to Lent.

      

    Comments

    COOKING VIDEO: For Mardi Gras Food, Make A Gumbo

     

    You don’t have to head to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras on March 8th.

    Celebrate at home with a special Mardi Gras gumbo—a flavorful layering of chicken, andouille sausage, crawfish, okra, diced tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, cayenne, fresh parsley and white rice. It has a chicken stock base and is thickened with a roux (fat and flour—the okra also helps to thicken). Gumbo recipes traditionally include filé powder (pronounced fee-LAY), which is ground sassafras leaves. If you don’t have any, you can skip it.

    Dress up in costume (here’s some inspiration). Wear ropes of beads (they’re unisex during Mardi Gras).

    Don’t limit the festivities to your immediate household. Since a pot of gumbo serves a crowd, have a Mardi Gras party. Ask participants to bring appropriate desserts and drinks.

    And tell everyone to bring their favorite jazz recordings. Give a Louis Armstrong CD or an inexpensive MP3 download as a prize for best costume.

    Back to the gumbo:

    Gumbo, an African word for okra, is a Creole soup originally thickened with okra pods (the French added the roux). Okra came to America with the slave trade and was introduced into Southern cuisine by African cooks.

    As with all recipes, there are regional variations and different styles of gumbo. If you’ve never made a gumbo, see how easy it is in this cooking video with caterer Shelly Everett, a.k.a. The Gourmet Angel:

       

       

  • See the different types of soups and the history of soup in our beautiful Soup Glossary.
  • Coming shortly: a Mardi Gras salad with Bourbon-soaked raisins and glazed spicy pecan pieces.
  • Comments

    Mardi Gras Foods

    Mardi Gras, or Carnival, celebrated February 20-24 this year, is Brazil’s largest annual celebration. The four-day party was brought to South America from Europe, and the Brazilians made it their own. The Mardi Gras celebration marks the beginning of the 40 day Lent season, starting on Saturday and ending on Fat Tuesday, or Mardi gras in French.

    Every year, Brazilian Mardi Gras attracts millions of tourists as well as local celebrants. Each Brazilian city has its own Carnival traditions, including elaborate parades, masquerade balls and other social gatherings, and, of course, feasts. Carnival is believed to have originated from the Italian words carne vale, meaning farewell to meat. The feasts offer meat, and plenty of it.

    If there’s a Brazilian-style churrascaria restaurant in your town, there’s no better place to order up a Caipirinha or two and celebrate Carnival. Texas de Brazil, one of the country’s premiere Churrascarias (there are 14 domestic locations—find one near you), offers these suggestions if you’d like to prepare an authentic Brazilian menu to celebrate Carnival at home:

    The caipirinha is Brazil’s national cocktail, made
    with cachaça, lime and sugar.

    - Caipirinha Cocktail. Brazil’s signature cocktail, the Caipirinha is made with cachaça, an intensely sweet Brazilian spirit. Learn more about cachaça and get Caipirinha recipes.

    Brazilian Feijoada. Carnival’s signature dish is also the national dish of Brazil, and the perfect comfort food on winter night. Feijoada is a stew made of several types of meat cooked with beans and traditionally served with a side of white rice, salad and peeled oranges. It’s the cassoulet of Brazil.

    Churrasco de Fraldinha. In Brazil, churrasco is the term for barbecue and fraldinha is flank steak. The Churrasco de Fraldinha is a meal for meat lovers only; Brazilians use the best meat and cooking techniques so no sauce is needed, but you could make the Brazillian vinaigrette. If you have a grill, invite the gang over for a Churrasco de Fraldinha and Caipirinhas. It will be a memorable occasion!

    Brazilian Vinaigrette. Similar to Pico de Gallo or salsa, a Brazilian vinaigrette can be made as spicy or mild as needed and is traditionally served over meats.

    Papaya Cream. An easy-to-make dessert that will have you thinking it is summertime. Papaya Cream is a chilled dessert of fresh papaya and cream, a popular and traditional Brazilian treat.

    Make your reservations—or start party planning—today.

    The orginal sugar free, o calorie, 0 sugar cocktail mix

    Comments










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