February 8, 2010

Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouler!

Whew, that was one fun Super Bowl party and a well deserved one after a marathon cooking session yesterday afternoon. And while I am not a Saints fan during the regular season, I certainly was rooting for them last night. But most of all, I was excited for the excuse to add some Cajun dishes to my cooking repertoire. So to cheer the Saints to victory, I decided to make Gumbo and a King Cake.

So the gumbo turned out the best of the two recipes. I adapted Bittman's Scallop Gumbo recipe from the New York Times to include local shrimp and spicy sausage. I had another frustrating Bittman experience because the roux (2 T. butter, 1/4 c. oil and 1/3 c. flour) never thickened. I cooked that sucker for a good 15 minutes before I started adding flour by the tablespoon. While it did achieve a nice peanut butter color, it never thickened up too much. But I went ahead with the recipe anyway, and then was frustrated again when I found the final gumbo to be TOO thick. Sigh.

But I got it all sorted out in the end and much to my delight, everyone loved it! Thanks everyone for raving about the gumbo and making me forget all my Bittman-induced anger.

Now for the dessert, I turned to John Besh whose Mardi Gras menu is featured on Epicurious right now. The man must know his stuff, being a James Beard winning NOLA chef, right? But I found this King Cake recipe to be a little disappointing. But before I throw Besh under the bus, I must admit that there is always room for user error.

The dough was off to a promising start- it was smooth and elastic, smelled wonderful and had 5 egg yolks in it. Good, right?

Thanks to A. for the use of her kitchen and for this beautiful braiding job!

I've read that you can make a cheater's King Cake by just braiding together canned cinnamon roll dough. And while I certainly would have felt like a cheat, I think that would have been better than this version. It was a little... dry. Dare I say overcooked? I dunno.

But whatever, I got to creep people out with this plastic baby, so it was all worth it.

Thanks, creepy plastic baby.

And I got to go buck wild with my purple, yellow, and green decorative sugars. Wahoo. Really, those were the things I was looking forward to the most while making this cake. So that it wasn't all that great was kind of incidental. But I really wanted it to be dynamite!

Enjoy your Mardi Gras celebration, I'm looking forward to the excuse to eat some shrimp, gravy, and grits!