Sunday, July 25, 2010

Foodbuzz 24X24: Celebrating the Cuisine of Gulf Coast: Breakfast in Louisiana

When I lived in New Orleans, I was enthralled by that wonderful city. One of my favorite things to do every weekend, was to visit the famed Café Du Monde in the French Quarter for golden-brown beignets dusted with powdered sugar and a café au lait with milk and chicory. I also greatly enjoyed riding the streetcar into the Uptown area for a satisfying seafood brunch. Whatever breakfast I enjoyed, I would always have the opportunity to listen to the live jazz music in the background. Just as in many other parts of the country, in New Orleans, breakfast is the most important meal of the day--even though other meals are also important!

When I received an email that Foodbuzz was donating the proceeds of this month's "24 X 24" competition to help the people in the Gulf affected by the oil spill, I decided to emerge from my hiatus from blogging to celebrate their generosity. I planned a quick New Orleans-themed breakfast for a small group of friends. I wanted them to appreciate the food from the Gulf Coast, and thus, perhaps gain an awareness of how the oil spill is affecting the people and culture in the area.

Breakfast Menu
Creole Omelets
Bananas Foster French Toast
Golden-Brown Beignets
Buttery Grits
Corn Muffins
Café Du Monde Coffee

For breakfast parties, I always try to take as many shortcuts as possible. You do not want to have to wake up at 5:00am in the morning for a party! So the day before, I made as many things as I could in advance, including corn muffins from a package. I also peeled the shrimp and precooked the shrimp, Creole-style. I also took the easy route for the "buttery grits with Gulf shrimp," and purchased instant buttery grits, so the day of, I would not have to slave over a hot stove top making sure there were no lumps!

Another time-saver, was purchasing premade beignets from the store and coating them with powdered sugar. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to easily purchase authentic beignets in San Francisco because of my tight schedule, so I did the unthinkable--I bought plain donut holes instead. Thankfully, my guests did not openly express any disdain towards me at the table.

Immediately before the guests arrived, I brewed the coffee and poured the mimosas, so that they could quench their thirst as they began to mingle.

For the breakfast party, I selected two relatively easy dishes to make: Creole Omelets and Bananas Foster French Toast. I began making both items about 2 hours before my guests arrived. The recipes are as follows:

Creole Omelets
10 extra-large chicken eggs, beaten
2 red bell peppers, de-seeded, cored, and diced
1 yellow onion, minced
2 Louisiana hot link sausages, diced
1/2 lb cooked Creole Shrimp
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
6 tbsp vegetable oil
Tabasco sauce, to taste
Zatarain's Creole Seasoning, to taste

Heat a non-stick pan to high heat, and swirl 1 tbsp of oil in the pan. Sautee the onions, bell peppers, and sausages until the onions are translucent and red from the bell peppers. Set aside.

In another small non-stick pan, heat 1 tbsp of the oil until shimmering. Put about 1/5 of the beaten eggs inside the pan, and swirl the egg so that it coats the bottom of the pan and begins to solidify. When the egg begins to set, carefully flip the egg pancake over in the pan, being careful not to break the pancake. Then, place about 2-3 tbsp of the mixture and several shrimps on 1/2 of the egg pancake. Sprinkle the shrimp with shredded cheese.

After a few minutes, when the egg begins to fully set and brown, quickly fold the egg pancake over the topping and onto a plate.

Also, French toast is a crowd-pleaser, and very easy to make. Not only is "French" toast a popular dish in the French-influenced Louisiana area, but for an even more New Orleans-centric twist, enjoy your French toast with Bananas Foster, rather than maple syrup!

Bananas Foster French Toast
5 extra-large eggs
1/2 cup of milk
10-12 slices of whole wheat bread
5 tbsp of vegetable oil

4 large bananas, quartered
1 stick of butter
2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup banana liqueur
1/4 cup rum
vanilla ice cream

Beat the eggs together with the milk. Meanwhile, heat one tbsp of oil in a non-stick pan. Working quickly, dunk the bread into the egg mixture and fry it in the pan, turning when the side touching the pan begins to brown. Add more of the oil as you work in batches. When all of the French toast is cooked, plate it on a platter and set it aside.

Next, heat the butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a pan on low heat. Quickly place the bananas in the pan (you can also leave the bananas uncooked and pour the mixture over the pan, but that is not traditional) and then the alcohol. If you feel comfortable, use a long-necked lighter or torch to quickly light the alcohol in the pan and let it burn off. Or, you can just let the mixture cook for a while, letting the alcohol evaporate without the flames.

When finished, serve the French toast with vanilla ice cream, and spoon the mixture and bananas over the toast and ice cream.

As my guests and I conversed, we discussed how New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf Region is known for its unique culture, cuisine, and generous people. Now more than ever, we need to applaud and recognize this culture and continue to assist the people living in the area by supporting their economy. After Hurricane Katrina and now the oil spill, the people there have been hit by tragedy after tragedy. Many of my friends and family from the area are closing their business after the spill. Please continue to support and help the Gulf community in anyway you can in light of the oil spill. I hope my breakfast party somehow inspired you regarding Louisiana cuisine and the beauty of Louisiana people.
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