Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Guest Post - Courtesy of the Big Easy

First and foremost, I want to take a moment to thank my good friend Jenny Morrison for both The Tipsy Cupcake's new banner and for taking the time to write a guest post for us on her trip to New Orleans.  Not quite in the theme of healthy eating, but it certainly makes me want to tear into a freshly cooked beignet.  :-)

This year for my wedding anniversary, my husband and I decided not to exchange gifts but rather, reward ourselves with a trip. Most of our time together is spent wiping snots from a two-year old's nose, breaking up sibling fights and catching flying objects mid-air, so we felt there was never a better time than now. I'm not sure where New Orleans came from or the whole idea that Mardi Gras was an experience we absolutely had endure, but somehow the thought became a provoking one and with that, our choice was made. We booked a spot at The Saint Hotel on Canal Street, purchased our over priced plane tickets and chose to stay during the height of Mardi Gras. I think the initial allure for me was the food. I will travel anywhere for a fantastic meal. It's why I spent a year convincing my husband we had to go to Italy. "The sauce!" I exclaimed: "Think about the sauce!" Anyways, my father was a Southern gentleman (well maybe not gentleman but he was from the south) and what I rarely admit to people is that his food was just as influential as my Nana's food. So maybe New Orleans just sort of whispered to me. And I quietly accepted its beckoning call.

I will say this: the people of New Orleans did not deliver. Let me re-phrase that, the people visiting New Orleans did not deliver. The restaurants of New Orleans, gave me everything I wanted and then some. I don't usually allow myself to just order food without much thought but I did here, reaching out to new tastes with open arms. Everything I ate I enjoyed immensely, there was not a dining experience that I can't speak highly of, everything was delicious and everyone who served us was amazing. Restaurants helped us escape the crazy Mardi Gras environment, while most people were enjoying chicken on a stick, we were diving deep into the real deal.

My favorite experience was at Cafe du Monde. We spent $12 and I had the best beignets and coffee: ever. They only serve three things: beignets, coffee and hot chocolate and they're not trying to be pretty about it. It's a place with no hostess where you have to fight for a seat. They bring you what you order and expect you not to stick around. Also, there is enough powdered sugar on these things to ski on and everyone is walking around with pant legs covered with evidence. But, the pillow soft texture is like nothing I have ever had and the coffee warmed my soul. I plan to recreate these gems here in my kitchen and I suggest you do too.

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 envelope active dry yeast
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup evaporated milk
7 cups bread flour
1/4 cup shortening
Nonstick spray
Oil, for deep-frying
3 cups confectioners' sugar

- Mix water, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl and let sit for 10 minutes.
- In another bowl, beat the eggs, salt and evaporated milk together.  Mix egg mixture to the yeast mixture. In a separate bowl, measure out the bread flour. Add 3 cups of the flour to the yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add the shortening and continue to stir while adding the remaining flour. Remove dough from the bowl, place onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray. Put dough into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Let rise in a warm place for at least 2 hours.
- Preheat oil in a deep-fryer to 350 degrees F.
- Add the confectioners' sugar to a paper or plastic bag and set aside.
- Roll the dough out to about 1/4-inch thickness and cut into 1-inch squares. Deep-fry, flipping constantly, until they become a golden color. After beignets are fried, drain them for a few seconds on paper towels, and then toss them into the bag of confectioners' sugar. Hold bag closed and shake to coat evenly.

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