Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fat Tuesday, Y'all

Yay, Mardi Gras!  Parades. Jazz.  Beads.  I have been to New Orleans exactly once and enjoyed every meal minute there.  I didn't make it to Cafe du Monde until the last day of my trip, so I only had a breakfast of their famous beignets once.  I've been looking to recreate that ever since.

Also, my DVR is full of food porn...er...food network shows.  Paula, Ina, Alton, and Rachel.  (Oh, and also a litte Guy Fieri, because, come on, he wears his sunglasses backwards.  He's ridiculous.)  Last month I saw a New Orleans themed episode of Paula's Best Dishes, wherein she made BEIGNETS.  I knew I needed a plan:  How can I make an entire batch of these babies in a way that doesn't seem like I just want to sit there and eat all of them?  (Even though I kinda do.)  I know: a Mardi Gras dinner party.

I started with the New Orleans holy trinity of cooking:  onions, celery, and peppers.  I used red and orange peppers; I like them better than the green ones.  And I put them in just a little bit of bacon grease.

I then added canned crushed tomatoes, ground pepper, and chopped garlic, and let it cook for about twenty minutes.  Then I added a bunch of shrimp and sliced andouille sausage (it was turkey sausage...shhh) and crumbled bacon.  Cooked about ten more minutes until the shrimp and sausage was done.  Put over a mixture of grains, the Harvest Blend from Trader Joe's.  Yum.

This was adapted from the South Beach Diet's recipe for Big Easy Shrimp.  I just added way more veggies and the sausage.  (The recipe calls for only ONE celery stalk.  Come on, South Beach Diet, I thought you LOVED vegetables.)

Then we put the Fat in Fat Tuesday.  Beignets are just fried dough.  Little rectangular donuts covered in powdered sugar and eaten while still warm.  SO FREAKING DELICIOUS.  I was a little worried they wouldn't hold up to the ideal beignets in my memory, but they turned out really good.    I couldn't find a written version of the recipe online, so I hung out with my pause button and took notes while watching Ms Paula Deen make them on the show.  Here you are, for your recreating pleasure.

Paula Deen's Beignets

First measure out seven cups of bread flour.  You'll need it when you don't have time to measure it out.

Mix together in a large bowl
1 1/2 cup lukewarm water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 envelope yeast

Let sit for ten minutes.

In a smaller bowl, mix together
2 eggs slightly beaten
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup evaporated milk

Beat together slightly, then add to yeast mixture.  Whisk together.

Add about three cups of bread flour to the yeast mixture.  Keep whisking (a helper is nice for the constant whisking).
Add 1/4 cup of solid Crisco to the yeast mixture.
Keep whisking.  (Seriously, recruit a friend for this part.)
Add the rest of the flour.  Whisk it on it there.
Knead the mixture together.  Leave on all five of your giant rings.  (Apparently.  Paula did.)

Spray a bowl with some sort of non-stick spray can stuff.  Put the dough in the bowl and cover it with a clean towel.  Let it sit for about two hours.

(Now go have a glass of wine with your friends, cook dinner, eat dinner, and save room for dessert.)

Heat ole...ohl...(I think she means oil) to 350 degrees.*

*You know, in the deep fryer that you have built into your countertop.  What?  You don't have one of those?  I really hate when the cooking show hosts don't give alternate instructions when they start using equipment that only restaurant cooks and cooking show hosts have access to.  And maybe rich people.  In this case, I used a Fry Daddy.  Instead of 350, I turned it to 'ON'.  It seemed to work ok.

Sprinkle a liberal amount of flour onto your cutting board.  If you have a normal residential-use sized cutting board like I do, only roll out half the dough at a time.

Roll out the dough, not too thick, not too thin.  I did the first batch a little too thin, and it was still good.  It worked best when the dough was about the thickness of a slice of bread.

Cut the dough into little rectangles.  She calls them squares, but they are not square.  More like fat rectangles.

Cook them in the oil.  As soon as they pop up to the top, flip them.  I flipped them pretty frequently, so they didn't get too done on either side.

When you take them out, first put them on a paper towel to drain a bit of the oil.  Then quick put them in some powdered sugar to get all yummy.  Then eat them while still warm.  Share (or not) with your friends.  At least share with the friend that helped you with the whisking.

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