Carnival Shrimp

In honor of carnival season and crab season, this is a stuffed shrimp recipe—New Orleans style. This dish has all the hallmarks of good creole cooking… butter, wine, and seafood! Unfortunately for me, I had to use prawns in this recipe because jumbo gulf shrimp are unheard of out here. Prawns have a much blander taste than gulf shrimp do (it’s due to their diet), so I compensated by seasoning each shrimp. I didn’t include this step in the recipe because some folks are lucky enough to have access to real shrimp. If you use prawns, sprinkle each raw prawn with Old Bay before topping.

Carnival Shrimp

Carnival Shrimp

1 medium yellow onion, diced
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
1 cup water
1 medium bell pepper, diced
1 lb. lump crab meat
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 Tablespoon Creole seasoning
1/4 cup dry white wine (optional)
2 lbs. large shrimp (or prawns)
Italian bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350º. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add diced onion and cook until the onion glistens. Add flour and make a quick roux. Add water and thin out the roux. Add bell pepper, salt, Creole seasoning and stir until everything is incorporated. Add wine. Cook mixture for 2 minutes (5 minutes if wine was added) until bell pepper is soft. Fold in crab meat and try to keep pieces as whole as possible. Set mixture aside while you clean and peel shrimp. Butterfly the cleaned and peeled shrimp and lay each shrimp on a greased baking sheet. Take a tablespoon and top each butterflied shrimp with a tablespoonful of the crab meat mixture. Sprinkle enough bread crumbs over each shrimp to just cover. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Serves 6.

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King Cake

It’s that time again. Today is the eve of King’s Day/Feast of the Epiphany/Twelfth Night/Little Christmas AKA the last day of Christmas. Tomorrow is when we take the Christmas trees and lights down and put up the Mardi Gras decorations. This year Mardi Gras is somewhat early (February 20th) so Carnival season is short and there’s less time to eat King cake. The following recipe is for a traditional King cake which is more like a sweet brioche than cake. I am no fan of the modern King cake which is at best treated like a glorified coffee cake. A few years back, we bought a king cake without knowing it was filled with cherry. Normally, I would have liked cherry coffee cake, but it was a bit like taking a drink of soda thinking it’s coke only to find out it’s root beer. I like root beer, but not when I want coke. When I was growing up, we always had the McKenzie’s or Schweggman’s King Cake which were made in the traditional style; I guess my mind is stuck on those cakes.

Traditionally the cake was baked on Epiphany Eve and served the following afternoon to family and friends. Nowadays the cake is made throughout Carnival season and served until Mardi Gras. By the Middle Ages, veneration of the three wise men had spread throughout Europe and Epiphany became known as The Feast of the Three Holy Kings. The cake was baked in honor of the Magi. According to Wikipedia, related culinary traditions are the tortell of Catalonia, the gâteau des Rois in Provence or the galette des Rois in the northern half of France. Latin Americans, like New Orleanians, place a figure representing the Christ child inside the cake. In other cultures, the king cake might contain a coin, bean, pecan or pea. In New Orleans, the person who receives the piece of cake containing a “baby” must provide the king cake for the next gathering of the season.

King Cake

King Cake

1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
2 packages dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
4 to 5 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/2 cup warm milk (105 to 115 degrees)
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter, cooled
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup finely chopped candied citron
1 pecan half, uncooked dried bean or King Cake Baby

Glaze:
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
Purple, green and gold sugar crystals

Combine the warm water, yeast and 2 teaspoons sugar in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside to a warm place for about 10 minutes.

Combine the 4 cups of flour, 1/2 cup sugar, salt, nutmeg, lemon rind and add warm milk, melted butter, egg yolks and yeast mixture. Beat until smooth. Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Place the dough in a well-greased bowl. Turn once so greased surface is on top. Cover the dough and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (about 1 1/2 hours).

Preheat the oven 350 degrees. Punch the dough down and place on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle with the citron and knead until the citron is evenly distributed. Shape the dough into a log, about 30 inches long. Place the dough on a buttered baking sheet. Shape into a ring, pinching ends together to seal. Place a well-greased 2-pound coffee can or shortening can in the center of the ring to maintain shape during baking. Press the King Cake Baby, pecan half or dried bean into the ring from the bottom so that it is completely hidden by the dough. Cover the ring with a towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the coffee can immediately. Allow the cake to cool. For the glaze: Combine the ingredients and beat until smooth. To assemble, drizzle cake with the glaze. Sprinkle with sugar crystals, alternating colors.

Warn your friends that there is a potential baby/bean inside so there are no broken teeth.

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Daube

Daube is a larded pot roast slowly braised in wine. The word has the same root as the spanish adobo, which is braising meats in wine or acid. The acids in the simmering liquid help to break down all the sinews and tendons in the meat, which release collagen and make a rich sauce. The larding step helps make the final gravy much richer and it adds flavor to the roast. Rather than dicing the garlic, my grandmother would add entire cloves into the larding slits. She probably went through an entire head of garlic doing this. You can do it that way, but crushing the garlic releases more of the garlic flavor, in my opinion. We used to have this most Sunday afternoons when I was a kid… yum!

Daube

1/4 lb. salt pork fat
1 shoulder roast (~5 lbs.)
1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
2 toes of garlic, diced
4 whole bay leaves, ground
1/2 tsp. clove
1/2 tsp. thyme
4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. black pepper
1-2 tablespoons of flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 carrots, peeled, and cut into 1/2 chunks
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup dry red wine
1-2 quarts boiling water (depends on size of pot, see below)
2 tablespoons dark roux

First, slice the salt pork into 1/4 inch thick strips. Make incisions about 3 inches long and 1 1/2 inches deep every couple of inches across the surface of the roast. Insert the slices of salt pork into each slit. This is called larding. Finely dice 1 quarter of the onion (about 1 cup) and the garlic. Combine this with the ground bay leaves, clove, thyme, 1/4 tsp. of the salt and 1/4 tsp. of the black pepper. Mix this thoroughly. Insert some of this mash into each slit, pressing it into the salt pork. Dust the outside surface of your roast with flour. Next, in a heavy 8-quart pot heat the olive oil. Brown the roast well on all sides. By following this all important step, you are both searing the meat, and you are starting your gravy for later. Add carrots, onion, parsley and remaining seasonings and cook until everything is well browned. Add red wine and just enough boiling water to cover the roast. Cover the pot and simmer over low heat for 3-4 hours or until beef is fork tender.

When roast is done, lift it out of the pot with a long fork and allow the juices to drain back into the pot. Set meat aside and allow it to rest for 15 minutes. Remove your vegetables and set aside. Strain the gravy into a large sauce pan and add roux to the saucepan to make a gravy for your roast. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to a strong simmer and allow some of the excess liquid to boil off. Stir constantly. After about 10 minutes of this, you should have a velvety, rich gravy. Slice meat into 1/4 thick slices, serve with vegetables, add some gravy and enjoy.

You may add diced tomatoes to the pot before simmering to increase the dish’s acid content. I added quartered yukon gold potatoes to the pot about 2 hours into cooking (they’ll be over cooked if you add them any sooner).

If you can get real French bread (vietnamese bakeries often have it if you don’t live in New Orleans) you will want to use the leftovers for po’ boys—especially the gravy. Some folks serve daube with spaghetti noodles—either by topping the noodles with the meat and then gravy or by using red gravy in lieu of the daube’s gravy.

Roast Beef Po' Boy
Po’ Boy made from leftover daube.

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