Fabulous Food Is Part Of Mardi Gras Magic

IN THE KITCHEN

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If you do nothing else to celebrate Mardi Gras in the Rim country, you should at least make a King Cake or a reasonable facsimile.

At a job I had earlier in my career, one of my co-workers was a young man from New Orleans. The first year he was there, his mother sent him a King Cake via Fed Ex. He shared it with his co-workers and I was hooked. The version we were treated to, tasted like a rich, dense cinnamon roll. Add a cup of hot New Orleans-style coffee these cold February mornings and you're in high cotton.

King Cake

Traditional New Orleans Recipe

1/2 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)

2 packages active dry yeast

1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar

3 1/2 to 4 1/2 cups flour unsifted

1 teaspoon nutmeg

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/2 cup warm milk

5 egg yolks

1 stick butter cut into slices and softened, plus 2 tablespoons more softened butter

1 egg slightly beaten with 1 tablespoon milk

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1" plastic baby doll

Pour the warm water into a small shallow bowl, and sprinkle yeast and 2 teaspoons sugar into it. Allow the yeast and sugar to rest for three minutes then mix thoroughly. Set bowl in a warm place, for ten minutes or until yeast bubbles up and mixture almost doubles up in volume. Combine 3 1/2 cups of flour, remaining sugar, nutmeg and salt, and sift into a large mixing bowl. Stir in lemon zest. Separate center of mixture to form a hole and pour in yeast mixture and milk. Add egg yolks and using a wooden spoon slowly combine dry ingredients into the yeast/milk mixture. When mixture is smooth, beat in 8 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon at a time and continue to beat 2 minutes or until dough can be formed into a medium soft ball.

Place ball of dough on a lightly floured surface and knead like bread. During this kneading, add up to 1 cup more of flour (1 tablespoon at a time) sprinkled over the dough. When dough is no longer sticky, knead 10 minutes more until shiny and elastic.

Using a pastry brush, coat the inside of a large bowl evenly with one tablespoon softened butter. Place dough ball in the bowl and rotate until the entire surface is buttered. Cover bowl with a moderately thick kitchen towel and place in a draft free spot for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the dough doubles in volume. Using a pastry brush, coat a large baking sheet with one tablespoon of butter and set aside.

Remove dough from bowl and place on lightly floured surface. Using you fist, punch dough down with a heavy blow. Sprinkle cinnamon over the top, pat and shake dough into a cylinder. Twist dough to form a curled cylinder and loop cylinder onto the buttered baking sheet. Pinch the ends together to complete the circle. Cover dough with towel and set it in draft free spot for 45 minutes until the circle of dough doubles in volume. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Brush top and sides of cake with egg wash and bake on middle rack of oven for 25 to 35 minutes until golden brown. Place cake on wire rack to cool. If desired, at this time, you can "hide" the plastic baby in the cake.

Colored sugars

Green, purple, & yellow paste

12 tablespoons sugar

Squeeze a dot of green paste in palm of hand. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over the paste and rub together quickly. Place this mixture on wax paper and wash hands to remove color. Repeat process for other 2 colors. Place aside.

Icing

3 cups confectioners sugar

1/4 cup lemon juice

3 to 6 tablespoons water

Combine sugar, lemon juice and 3 tablespoons water until smooth. If icing is too stiff, add more water until spreadable. Spread icing over top of cake. Immediately sprinkle the colored sugars in individual rows consisting of about 2 rows of green, purple and yellow.

Cake is served in 2" - 3" pieces.

King Cake Recipe

(an easier version)

1 can of cinnamon rolls, with icing

3/4 cup of sugar, separated into 3 parts of 1/4 each

Food coloring

Separate the cinnamon rolls and roll them out by hand so that they look like a hot dog. Shape the roll into an oval, pinch the ends together, and place on a cookie sheet. Cook as directed.

While they are cooking, use food coloring to dye sugar. Make one part purple using blue and red, one part green, and one part gold using yellow. When rolls are finished cooking, ice the tops with the white icing from the package, then sprinkle the different colors of sugars alternating as you go around the oval.

Crawfish Etouffee

(The Real Thing)

Serves: 6-8

1/2 cup butter

1 cup chopped green onions

1/4 cup chopped parsley

2 pounds crawfish tails

1 cup crawfish fat, if available or 1 cup butter

Salt and pepper to taste

1 teaspoon cornstarch (optional)

Lemon slices (optional)

Melt butter in large skillet or Dutch oven and saute green onions until tender; about 10 to 15 minutes. Add parsley, crawfish tails, crawfish fat (or butter), and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat 15 to 20 minutes. If a thicker gravy is desired, dissolve cornstarch in a small amount of water and add to sauce. Serve over steamed rice and garnish with lemon slices, if desired.

Etouffee ("ay-too-tay")...a rich gravy served over fluffy white Louisiana rice cooked to perfection...a food connoisseur's delight!

Jambalaya

Serves: 8

1/4 cup oil

1 (3-3 1/2 pound) fryer, cut up

1 pound pork sausage, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1 teaspoon Tony's Creole Seasoning

2 teaspoons salt

2 large onions, chopped

2 large ribs of celery, chopped

1/2 cup chopped bell pepper

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

1 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons chopped parsley

2 Tablespoons chopped green onion tops

4 cups cooked rice

1 (6-ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and chopped (optional)

Heat oil in a large, thick pot on medium-high heat. Add chicken pieces, brown on all sides and cook until tender (20-25 minutes). Add sausage, Tony's seasoning, and salt. Cover, lower heat, and cook until chicken is well-done, about 30 minutes.

Remove chicken and sausage and drain all except 1/3 of the drippings from the pot. Add onions, celery, bell pepper and garlic, and saute until tender. Stir in tomato sauce and salt and return chicken (deboned, if preferred), and sausage to the pot. Cover and simmer about 10 minutes. Add the parsley and green onion tops, cooking an additional 5 minutes, covered. Fold in cooked rice (and optional water chestnuts) and simmer about 10 minutes.

Louisiana Red Beans and Rice

1 pound red beans, washed, drained, and soaked in water overnight, drained 3 cups water

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 cup chopped celery

1 large bay leaf, crushed

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 cup cooking oil

Salt and pepper

1 pound smoked sausage, sliced

2 Tablespoons parsley, chopped

Steaming rice

Place beans in cold water in a 4-quart pot. Add garlic, celery, bay leaf, onion, and oil and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 2 hours. Add water as needed, stirring occasionally. Add salt, pepper, sausage, and parsley and continue cooking over low heat for about 1 hour. Serve over a mound of steaming rice and enjoy! For 6-8 people.

Smooth, flavorful, hearty and wonderful.

Hurricanes

4 oz Dark Rum

2 oz Lemon Juice

2 oz Red Passion Fruit Mix

Serve in a Hurricane Glass filled with crushed ice, garnish with orange slice and cherry.

Planters Punch

1 oz Dark Rum

3 oz Pineapple juice

1/4 oz Grenadine

2 oz Orange Juice

Serve over Ice.

Mint Juleps

2 oz 100 Proof Bourbon

1.5 oz Simple Syrup

4 or 5 Fresh Mint Leaves

Muddle (don't stir or shake)

Serve in a Mint Julep Glass with Crushed Ice, Garnish with Orange and Cherry and One Sprig of Mint.

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