Happy Mardi Gras, everyone!
Way up here in Kentucky (sometimes referred to as the “northernmost tip of the south”), Mardi Gras isn’t really a big deal. Yes, Bourbon n’ Toulouse has a huge crawfish boil (700 pounds of crawfish! What?!), but I’d say that’s pretty much the extent of the celebration around here. One of my best friends lives in Louisiana, and I remember being shocked to discover that students in that part of the country get a Mardi Gras break. What?
Thanks to several trips to Baton Rouge last year (thanks to both Becca and Natalie for getting married in that exciting city), Eric and I have become big fans of Cajun food. So I decided that we should enjoy a Cajun feast in honor of Fat Tuesday. I have never cooked anything even remotely similar to any of this before, but it turned out to be super easy, if not incredibly time consuming. On the menu last night: shrimp etouffee, bread with Cajun butter, and beignets with a honey marmalade dipping sauce.
I really wanted to make crawfish etouffee because that’s my favorite. Unfortunately, after a 3-hour search of 5 different grocery stores, I came up empty-handed. But Kroger had a buy-one-get-one-free sale on frozen, wild caught shrimp, so I switched the menu to shrimp etouffee. As for the bread, I was really hoping to replicate Bourbon n’ Toulouse’s incredible side dish. I searched all over the internet to find out what they put on their bread, but apparently no one wants to give away the secret. If anyone knows the recipe for the magical substance they slather on all of their bread, please share it with me. In return, I will bake/cook anything your heart desires.
Since I couldn’t find the real Bn’T recipe, I used a random recipe for Cajun butter, which turned out to be pretty tasty, but not close enough to the real deal. But I slathered it on some french bread from Bluegrass Baking Company, and it was good (my sister thought it was quite spicy, but I think my palette is no longer sensitive to spicy foods). By the way, if you are in the market for some freshly baked bread in Lexington, please visit their bakery. It’s seriously delicious.
Anywho, back to the food. A while back, I found a recipe for beignets. I’ve had beignets at Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans, and I’ve had them at a restaurant in Florida. Both were delicious. So I whipped up a batch last night for dessert. Now, let me say that I have never fried anything before in my life. But oh my goodness, it’s so fun! I really enjoyed putting the dough in the hot oil and watching it puff up. My success with frying dough last night has convinced me that I could possibly make my own blueberry cake donuts, which may be attempted in the near future.
So, back to our Fat Tuesday celebration. I’m afraid I was the only one who dressed in appropriate Mardi Gras colors (bright green t-shirt, purple headband), but we felt the spirit of the South as we ate a delicious Cajun meal. Here are the recipes, in case you want to try it for yourself!
adapted from Family Circle Magazine (Feb. 2012)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green pepper, seeds removed, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
3 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
2 pounds large frozen shrimp, cleaned and deveined
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
4 servings cooked brown rice
Before you do anything else, chop your vegetables. You won’t have time to do it later.
In a large heavy-bottomed pot, whisk together four and oil until combined. Bring to boiling; reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes, whisking continuously, until reddish-brown in color.
Add onion, green pepper, celery, and garlic. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomato sauce, 1 cup water, Worcestershire sauce, and Cajun seasoning. Simmer 15 minutes.
Add shrimp and simmer 4 minutes(I was terrified that my frozen shrimp would not actually get cooked in this process, but this simmering time did the trick!). Stir in parsley.
Serve shrimp over brown rice.
Bread with Cajun Butter
recipe from cooks.com
6 tablespoons soft butter (I set the butter out in the morning and let it soften all day)
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Mix all ingredients together until well combined.
Preheat oven to 350. Slice bread in half, longways. Spread butter mixture over the cut side of the bread and bake for 10 minutes, or until bread is warm and butter has soaked into the bread.
Beignets with Honey Marmalade Dipping Sauce
recipe from Southern Living Magazine (Feb. 2011)
for the beignets:
1 envelope active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees), divided
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening
6 1/2 to 7 cups bread flour
sifted powdered sugar
for the dipping sauce:
1/2 cup marmalade
1/2 cup honey
Make the yeast mixture: Combine yeast, 1/2 cup warm water, and 1 teaspoon granulated sugar in bowl of a stand mixer. Let stand 5 minutes. Add milk, eggs, salt, and remaining granulated sugar.
Form a dough: Microwave remaining 1 cup water until hot (about 115 degrees); stir in shortening until melted. Add to yeast mixture. Beat at low speed, gradually adding 4 cups flour, until smooth. Gradually add remaining 2 1/2 to 3 cups flour, beating until a sticky dough forms. Transfer to a lightly greased bowl. Cover and chill 4 to 24 hours.
Roll and cut: Turn dough out onto a floured surface; roll to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into 2 1/2-inch squares. (I used a pizza cutter, dipped in bread flour, to make this super easy.)
Fry until golden: Pour oil to depth of 2 to 3 inches into a Dutch oven (or in my case, a small pot on the stove). Heat oil to 360 degrees (I don’t know what temperature my oil actually was because my liquid thermometer only goes up to 220, but you should be fine if you just let the oil heat up for a while. If your dough doesn’t puff up, the oil needs to be hotter.) Fry dough, in batches, 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on a wire rack. Dust immediately with powdered sugar.
To make the dipping sauce, combine honey and marmalade in a heat-safe bowl. Microwave for 1-2 minutes, or place in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Stir and serve with a plate of beignets.
There you have it! All the fixings for a delicious Cajun meal. All of this together made more than enough to serve 4 people. We’ll be eating leftovers for days! Enjoy!