The Christmas decorations are stored and replaced with Carnival flags, beads and masks. Yes, it is Carnival time in Louisiana! This year Mardi Gras falls on February 21 allowing plenty of time for balls, parades, brunches and a whole lot of frivolity.
If I were you, I would order my King Cakes NOW so you will be ready to party hearty. I never can decide what flavor I want so I just order ALL of them. You will also need Carnival-themed napkins, cups, and of course, lots of beads to give as favors at whatever kind of party you’ll be hosting. I personally like to entertain at a brunch and I try to do as much as possible in advance. Here is a menu that is fairly easy to prepare but oh, so delicious. Creamy, smooth but with a little kick, the milk punches can be made with bourbon, brandy or um—just choose your poison. Make the punch a day or so in advance and have it well chilled in the refrigerator. And oh, donâ€™t serve the punch over ice lest it water the punch of the punch down!
MY MILK PUNCH
Makes 1 gallon
- 1 (4/5-quart) bottle of bourbon, brandy or dark rum
- 3 quarts half-and-half
- Â¼ cup tablespoons vanilla extract
- Simply syrup (recipe follows)
- Grated nutmeg
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Boil until the sugar dissolves and liquid becomes slightly thick. Cool completely before using.
Combine the bourbon, half-and-half, and vanilla in a one-gallon container. Add the simple syrup to attain desired sweetness. Chill well in the refrigerator. Serve in chilled old-fashion glasses (not over ice) and sprinkle with nutmeg.
Our soup course features not one but three soups that can be easily served in demitasses centered on a base plate. The bloody Mary soup is basically a chilled gazpacho to which a splash of ice-cold vodka or gin can be added right before serving. Oysters are plentiful at this time of year so we offer this simple but good oyster soup. Leeks and spicy tasso pair well in a creamy soup. (I always give credit where credit is due and I thank Hallman Woods, Sr. from New Iberia for this delicious soup.)
Bloody Mary Soup
Makes about 20 small appetizer servings
- 1 (46-ounce) can tomato juice
- 4 large ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1 medium-size green bell pepper, finely chopped
- 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
- Â½ cup finely chopped green onions
- 1 medium-size cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)
- Â½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper (more or less to taste)
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons hot sauce (more or less to taste)
- Chilled vodka or gin (optional)
Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and stir to mix. If you wish to puree, do so in a food processor. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least four hours before serving. It will last for about a week in the refrigerator and it only gets better with time.
Cream of Leek and Tasso
Makes about 20 small appetizer servings
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 2 Â½ cups coarsely chopped leeks (white and green parts)
- 1 cup finely chopped tasso (pulse once or twice in a food processor)
- 2 quarts chicken stock
- 6 ounces heavy cream
- Salt, pepper and Tabasco to taste
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and add the flour. Cook, whisking, until the mixture is smooth and thick, about 2 minutes. Add the leeks and tasso and cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Slowly add the stock, whisking, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the cream and simmer for about five minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Tabasco. Serve warm.
Makes about 20 small appetizer portions
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- One and one-half cups finely chopped yellow onions
- 1 quart warm whole milk
- 4 dozen freshly shucked oysters, drained and oyster liquor reserved
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 3 tablespoons butter
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Combine the butter and the flour in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Stirring slowly and constantly, make a light brown roux. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Combine the milk with the reserved oyster liquor and add slowly to the roux mixture, stirring constantly. The mixture will thicken slightly.
Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the oysters, parsley, and butter and simmer until the edges of the oysters curl. Remove from the heat. Serve warm.
As much as I love grillades and grits, sometimes I need a change. This crawfish and grits dish is a delightful alternative. Be sure to use Louisiana crawfish! The recipe comes from Emerilâ€™s Creole Christmas, which I co-authored.
SMOTHERED GRITS WITH CRAWFISH
Makes about 10 servings
- 1 pound peeled crawfish tails
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Â½ teaspoon cayenne
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup chopped yellow onions
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 3 cups half-and-half
- 1 Â½ cups quick-cooking white grits
- Â½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Toss the crawfish tails with the salt and cayenne in a medium-size mixing bowl. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until slightly soft, about 2 minutes. Add the crawfish and garlic, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the stock and half-and-half and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the grits and stir constantly until they are tender and creamy, about 10 minutes. Add the cheese and stir until it melts. Serve warm.
Years ago my aunt served an asparagus dish for her ladiesâ€™ luncheon and I loved it but alas I didnâ€™t have the actual recipe. However, several years ago I came across a very similar recipe in a Saveur magazine so I adapted it to suit my taste.
Makes 8 to 10 servings
- 2 pounds asparagus
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 to 2 pinches paprika
- Salt and cayenne to taste
- 4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 cup coarsely crumbled Ritz crackers
- Â½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Trim the tough ends of the asparagus. Cut the asparagus into pieces and cook in the boiling water until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes, depending on the size.
Drain but reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Set the asparagus aside.
Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Whisk in the reserved cooking liquid, then the cream, stirring until smooth and thick, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the paprika, then season with salt and cayenne.
Layer the asparagus, eggs, and sauce alternately in a shallow casserole dish, ending with the sauce. Sprinkle with the cracker crumbs and cheese. Dot with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Bake until bubbly and golden, about 30 minutes. Serve hot.
I am the first to say that Iâ€™m not much of a baker, but these biscuits always come out just right. Serve them with jam or preserves of your choice.
LIGHT-AS-A -CLOUD BISCUITS
Makes 24 good-sized biscuits
- 4 cups biscuit mix
- 1 heaping tablespoon sugar
- 1 scant teaspoon salt
- Â½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 Â½ cup chilled vegetable shortening
- 1 Â½ cups milk
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Sift all the dry ingredients together into a large mixing bowl. Drop the shortening into the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the milk over it. With your fingers (not with a spoon, pastry knife, or anything else), mix everything together, working in the dry ingredients until the dough has formed a nice, slightly sticky ball.
If you want to roll the biscuits, generously flour a pastry board, roll out the dough to about 1/4-inch thickness, and cut with a biscuit cutter. Otherwise, make drop biscuits by dropping a tablespoon of the dough on an ungreased cookie sheet. Sometimes I dust my hands well with flour and pat out little rounds. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Note: The uncooked dough can be frozen.
Bananas Foster is always a great dessert, but if you want to kick it up a notch as Emeril does, I suggest this recipe from the Bam Man himself. You can serve it with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with caramel sauce. Yum!
BANANAS FOSTER BREAD PUDDING
Makes about 12 servings
- 9 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 Â½ cups packed light brown sugar
- Â¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 6 firm-ripe bananas, peeled and cut crosswise into Â¾-inch slices
- Â¼ cup banana liqueur
- Â½ cup dark rum
- 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- 6 cups (1/2-inch cubes) day-old French bread
- Vanilla ice cream (optional)
- Caramel sauce (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10 by 14-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter and set aside.
Melt the remaining 8 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 cup of the brown sugar and the cinnamon and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Add the bananas and cook on both sides, turning, until the bananas start to soften and brown, about 3 minutes. Add the banana liqueur and stir to blend. Carefully add the rum and shake the pan back and forth to warm the rum and flame the pan. (Or, off the heat, carefully ignite the rum with a match and return to the heat.) Shake the pan back and forth, basting the bananas, until the flame dies. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Whisk together the eggs, remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar, the cream, milk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Add the cooled banana mixture and bread and stir to blend thoroughly. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake until firm, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes.
To serve, scoop the pudding onto dessert plates. Top each serving with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, drizzle with caramel sauce, and serve immediately. Serve the bread pudding with cafÃ© au lait.
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