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Fat Tuesday: The key to a proper feast is decadence

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By Olga Watkins
Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

Thoughts of Fat Tuesday conjure images of the streets of New Orleans' French Quarter teeming with massive crowds of Mardi Gras revelers throwing beads and enjoying the effects of Hurricane cocktails and frozen rum drinks.

New Orleans might boast one of the best-known, largest and most-raucous Fat Tuesday parties in the United States, but it wasn't the first such celebration in this country or elsewhere around the globe. Mardi Gras and Carnivale events take place from Brazil to the Caribbean islands, in Germany, Italy and France and throughout the United States. Mobile, Ala., is believed to be the location of the first such event here in 1699.

It is generally accepted that the origins of Mardi Gras, French for Fat Tuesday, can be traced back to 753 B.C. and the Roman pagan festival of Lupercalia. This early festival, also the precursor to the modern Valentine's Day, is similar to more-recent observances, in that it was and is a time to partake of life's pleasures in excess and with abandon.

When Christianity arrived in Rome, the church opted to incorporate many of the rituals associated with various pagan holidays and festivals into their own, rather than attempt to abolish them.

In this case, the weeks between Twelfth Night and Shrove Tuesday — the night before the start of Lent — morphed with much-older traditions.

The result is worldwide celebrations that include parades, masks, gift-giving and all manner of gaiety and debauchery leading to the 40 days of penitence, meditation and fasting observed by many during Lent.

We can all be thankful that some of the Lupercalia rituals didn't make the cut and become part of our modern-day celebrations. I, for one, can live the rest of my life quite happily without ever encountering hordes of mostly naked men, covered in goat's blood, running through the streets while flogging young maidens with goat skin to bless them with fertility.

As Shrove Tuesday customs spread throughout Europe during the Middle Ages, there became a practical side to the Fat Tuesday dinner.

Families would finish eggs, milk, meat, butter or other rich foods prior to the start of Lent, in this time long before electricity, so as not to be wasteful.

When I was contemplating my Fat Tuesday dinner menu, I wanted to try to honor that cumulative history to incorporate some Gulf Coast favorites and a few of the items most commonly chosen for purposes of abstinence during the season — coffee, sugar, meat, soda and chocolate.

Even if you don't observe these dates as religious holidays, there is much fun to be had in the planning of a Fat Tuesday dinner.

Whether you prefer to celebrate with Belgian pancakes, Brazilian roasted meats or Crawfish Etouffee, the key to any memorable and successful Fat Tuesday event is decadence.

Olga Watkins is a contributing writer to Trib Total Media.

Shrimp, Crab and Artichoke Maison

This recipe is based on the Crab Maison recipe from Galatoire's Restaurant in New Orleans. Serve with a fresh, crusty baguette.

Water

2 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning

Ice for an ice-water bath

1 pound 16-20 count raw Gulf shrimp, cleaned, peeled and deveined, tails removed

3 / 4 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 / 2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

2 teaspoons small capers, rinsed and finely chopped

1 teaspoon finely chopped flatleaf parsley

5-6 green onions, thinly sliced

1 pound jumbo lump crab meat

2 cups artichoke-heart leaves, cooked or canned then rinsed

2 heads butter lettuce, cleaned, dried, leaves pulled apart from head

1-3 thick slices of ripe tomato per guest, if available

Bring 8 cups of water and the Old Bay to a rapid boil. In a large mixing bowl, empty 3 trays of ice cubes and add just enough water to cover them. Drop the raw shrimp in the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Immediately remove the shrimp from the boiling water and transfer them to the ice-water bath. Make sure that all of the shrimp are covered in the ice water so they stop cooking right away.

After the shrimp have cooled completely (10 minutes) remove them from the ice water and set aside. Discard the boiling liquid.

Whisk together the mayonnaise, oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Gently fold in the capers, parsley and green onions. Gently fold the shrimp, crabmeat and artichokes into the dressing. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

If serving as an appetizer, place 1 large piece of butter lettuce on each plate and carefully use an ice cream scoop to divide the mixture into equal portions on each plate. Place the tomato slice on the plate and serve. Good tomatoes are not easy to find this time of year. If you can't get your hands on a good tomato, then it's best to just skip it. You could use a cherry tomato or some finely diced sweet red bell pepper on the plate as a garnish. If you do use tomato slices, remember to sprinkle just a little salt on each one. If you opt to serve this as a salad, use multiple leaves of butter lettuce and 3 slices of tomato on each plate.

Makes 8 servings as an appetizer or 6 as a salad.

Crawfish & Andouille Jambalaya

Chef Chad Radecker is a New Orleans native. He has worked as a chef for 24 years, serving some of that time in a few legendary New Orleans restaurant kitchens, including the original Emeril's and Commander's Palace. He recently joined forces with the Tomson family, the new owners of the former Brackenridge Heights Country Club in Natrona Heights to open Tables on Green, slated to open this month.

It will feature Creole and Southern cuisine with a little Pittsburgh twist. Just think “crawfish pirogues.”

From Chef Chad Radecker.

1 / 4 cup vegetable oil

1 cup onion, diced

1 cup celery, diced

1 cup sweet bell pepper, diced

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 pounds andouille sausage, sliced

1 pound crawfish tail meat

1 cup tomatoes, diced

2 cups tomato puree

3 cups chicken stock

3 cups long-grain rice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Red hot pepper sauce

1 cup green onion, sliced

1 / 2 cup parsley, chopped

In a Dutch oven or heavy-bottom pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat, saute the onions, celery, bell peppers and garlic until caramelized but not scorched. Mix in the andouille, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Blend in the crawfish meat, tomatoes, tomato puree and chicken stock and bring to boil, stir in the rice and bring back to boil. Season with salt, pepper and hot sauce, and stir once. Reduce the heat to low and coverthe pot, cook for 20 minutes and do not stir or uncover. After 20 minutes, remove the cover add the green onion and parsley, and stir to make sure the rice is not sticking. Cover and cook another for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let steam for another 15 minutes.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Spiced Pecan Red Fish With Creole Meuniere Sauce

This recipe is for two cooked-to-order portions of red fish. You can adjust the amount to suit your needs.

From Chef Chad Radecker.

For the fish:

1 / 4 cup pecans, dry-roasted

1 / 4 cup panko

1 / 4 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar

1 / 2 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon cayenne

1 / 4 cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons melted butter

2-6 ounce portions red fish fillet

For the Creole Meuniere Sauce:

1 / 4 cup white wine

2 cloves garlic, chopped fine

2 tablespoons cold butter

1 / 4 cup Worcestershire sauce

Salt

1 / 4 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

Freshly ground black pepper

1 / 16 cup lemon juice, fresh

To prepare the fish: Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor combine the pecans, panko, brown sugar, salt and cayenne and pulse until well combined. Taste for proper seasoning. Heat the vegetable oil in a saute pan on medium-high heat. While the pan is heating, coat the fish with the melted butter and pack the pecan-panko mixture onto the fish. When the pan is hot, place the fish with the presentation side down in the pan and cook until the fish is brown and crisp, for 3 to 4 minutes, being careful not to burn it. Flip the fish over in the pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, then place the pan into the oven for 5 minutes, or until the fish is cooked firm. When the fish is out of the oven, remove it from the pan and place it on paper towels to drain the oil. Wipe excess oil out of the pan so you can make the sauce.

To prepare the Creole Meuniere Sauce: Being careful with the hot saute pan, add the white wine and cook over medium heat until it is reduced by half. Add the garlic, butter, Worcestershire and salt, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the heavy cream and cook until the volume is reduced by half. Season with parsley, salt and pepper. Serve the sauce over the fish and enjoy.

Makes 2 servings.

Coffee & Spice Rubbed Filet Medallions

For the spice rub:

1 / 4 cup coffee grounds

1 tablespoons black or dark cocoa powder

2 tablespoons dark-brown sugar

1 / 4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 / 2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cumin

2 tablespoons dark chili powder

For the Filet:

3 1 / 2 -4 pounds beef tenderloin

For the bourbon-horseradish Sauce:

3 / 4 cup mayonnaise

1 / 4 cup ketchup (Yes, ketchup. Trust me.)

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 / 4 cup grated horseradish

1 / 3 cup of your favorite bourbon

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

To prepare the spice rub: Combine the ingredients and spread it on a cookie sheet.

To prepare the filet: Press the beef tenderloin into the spice mix until the whole filet is coated.

Heat a large saute pan on medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, place the coated beef in the pan and sear on all sides for 3 to 4 minutes. (This step will create some smoke, so make sure your exhaust is on or you have a window open.)

Transfer the beef to the oven, set a timer for 30 minutes, and check the temperature of your beef. When the thickest part of the filet reaches 135 degrees in the center, the beef will be medium-rare. Remove the beef from the oven at this point and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes before carving.

While the beef is cooling and resting, make the Bourbon-Horseradish Sauce.

To prepare the Bourbon Horseradish Sauce: Whisk the ingredients together and set aside.

To serve: After the beef has rested for at least 30 minutes, use a very sharp carving knife to slice it into 1 / 4 -inch-thick slices. Lay 3 slices on a small plate and drizzle with horseradish sauce to serve.

Makes 8 servings.

Stuffed, Roast Pork Loin in Bacon With Apple Pancakes

For the pork loin:

1 pound sweet Italian sausage (bulk)

4-pound piece pork loin

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 pound sliced bacon

For the Apple Pancakes:

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 / 2 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch salt

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon dried ginger root

1 / 2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 large eggs, beaten

1 cup buttermilk, divided

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 medium-size granny smith apples, cored, peeled and very thinly sliced into 1-inch-long pieces and tossed in lemon water and drained

Vegetable oil or butter for frying

Maple syrup, for serving

To prepare the pork loin: Cook the sausage in a saute pan until it is no longer pink. Drain the rendered fat and set the sausage aside to cool. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Cut a “pocket” into one side of the pork loin, leaving 2 to 3 inches on each end uncut. Make sure the pocket is about 3 / 4 of the way into the center of the pork loin without going all of the way through.

Stuff the sausage into the center of the pork loin and transfer the loin to a roasting pan with the open end up. Sprinkle the roast with salt and pepper. Begin in the center of the roast and cover the pocket by wrapping the bacon around the pork loin in a crisscross pattern. Tent the pan with foil and transfer it to the oven. After 45 minutes, remove the foil tent and turn the oven up to 350 degrees. Continue to cook until the bacon is rendered. Make sure the internal temperature of the loin at its thickest point is 145 degrees.

Serve with Apple Pancakes.

Makes 8-10 servings.

To prepare the Apple Pancakes: Mix together all of the dry ingredients. Add the eggs, half the buttermilk and the vanilla, and whisk until smooth. Slowly add the remaining buttermilk until the batter is the proper consistency. You may want to use a little less or a little more buttermilk to reach the desired result.

Gently fold in the apple slices. Use a small ladle to scoop about 2 ounces of batter onto a hot, lightly greased griddle or pan. When the edges of the pancake are firm, flip them and cook on the opposite side for 1 to 2 minutes. Serve the hot pancakes right away, drizzled with warm maple syrup.

Makes 18 to 24 3-inch pancakes.

Beignets

Double the recipe so you have leftovers for bread pudding.

2 1 / 4 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 1 / 2 cups warm water (110 degrees)

1 / 2 cup sugar

2 large eggs, beaten

1 cup evaporated milk

1 / 2 cup butter, softened

1 / 2 teaspoons salt

7 cups flour

1 quart vegetable oil

1 large, clean paper bag

1 / 4 cup confectioners' sugar

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Add the sugar and stir gently until the sugar is dissolved. Add the eggs, evaporated milk, butter and salt and whisk. Stir in the flour, 1 cup at a time, until it is incorporated. Cover the dough and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and for as long as 24 hours.

Heat the oil to 350 degrees in a heavy stock pot or a deep-fryer. Roll the dough out to ¼-inch thickness. Cut the dough into 2 -½-inch squares or rounds and gently drop the dough, one piece at a time, into the hot oil. Do not overfill the fryer or you won't be able to maintain the right temperature. The dough should pop up. Turn the dough with a long-handled strainer to lightly brown all sides. The cooking time is approximately 2 to 4 minutes.

Remove the beignets from the hot oil and drain on paper towels. Transfer immediately to a paper bag and add confectioners' sugar. Shake lightly to coat the beignets and serve warm.

Makes 8 servings.

Boozy Beignet Bread Pudding Trifle

For the Bread Pudding:

1 / 2 stick butter, cold

4 large egg yolks

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Pinch salt

1 / 2 teaspoon cinnamon

3 / 4 cup heavy cream

1 / 3 cup spiced rum

1 / 3 cup dark rum

1 / 3 cup boubon, whiskey or brandy

12 stale beignets (or 6 large, stale, glazed donuts)

1 cup raisins, dried cranberries or other dried fruit, optional

For the Simple Chocolate Custard:

8 large egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 / 2 cup sugar

2 cups heavy cream

2 / 3 cup whole milk

12 ounces quality, semi-sweet chocolate pieces, chopped

1 tablespoon softened butter

For the Raspberry Sauce:

1 pint of fresh or frozen raspberries

2 tablespoons orange juice

2 teaspoon cornstarch mixed into ½ cup of cold water

2 teaspoons sugar

To prepare the Bread Pudding: Use the butter to grease a 9-inch by 9-inch baking pan on the bottom and sides and set aside. Cream the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer. Add the pinch of salt, cinnamon, cream, liquor and dried fruit, if using, and beat on low speed until all of the ingredients, except the beignets or donuts, are mixed.

Break the beignets or doughnuts into small, bite-size pieces into a separate mixing bowl. Slowly add the liquid mixture to the beignet pieces and gently fold, allowing the liquid time to soak into the stale beignets. Continue until all or most of the liquid is incorporated with the beignets. You want the beignets to be wet, but you do not want too much liquid in the pan.

Transfer the mix into the greased baking pan, cover with foil and refrigerate for an hour. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Make sure the foil isn't touching the pudding. Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake for 40 minutes covered. Uncover, turn the pan around, turn the heat down to 325 degrees and continue to cook for another 30 to 50 minutes.

The pudding should puff up, brown nicely on the top and reach an internal temperature of 155 degrees. Insert a toothpick into the center of the pudding. If the toothpick is clean when you pull it out, the pudding is cooked.

To prepare the Simple Chocolate Custard: Cream the egg yolks, vanilla and sugar and set aside. Heat the cream and milk in a heavy saucepan on medium heat. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave and whisk in the butter. Gradually add the chocolate and egg mixture to the warm cream and milk, whisking constantly. Continue to whisk until the custard thickens, for about 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

To prepare the Raspberry Sauce: Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse to blend. Transfer to a saucepan and cook on medium -low heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced. Refrigerator for at least an hour.

To assemble the trifle: Using a tall, clear pilsner or similar type of glass, layer the bread pudding, chocolate custard and raspberry sauce to the top of the glass. Cover with plastic and store in the refrigerator for as long as 48 hours before serving. Garnish with whipped cream and a tiny dab of raspberry and serve with an iced tea spoon.

Makes 8 to 12 servings.

 

 
 


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