Sunday Family Dinner

Family Dinner Celebrates Mardi Gras

March 2019 Fam Din
March is always a tough month for us to figure out a theme for Family Dinner.

Do we go with the St. Patrick’s Day route like that one year?

Maybe an early Easter theme like last year?

Or that one year where we were so stumped, we just decided to make green food. (Maybe not our most inspired dinner but it was still tasty.)

March 2019 Fam Din
So when we were kicking ideas around for this March, we were hemming and hawing FOH-EVAH!

And then it hit us…. MARDI GRAS is in March this year!

Sure, we’ve done a crazy N’awlins Seafood Boil and Southern Comfort food but we haven’t tried channeling Fat Tuesday before.

March 2019 Fam Din
Now it’s said that the first Mardi Gras celebration in the states occurred in Mobile, Alabama – and my ‘Bama coworker won’t let anyone say otherwise (those Roll Tide folks are serious!). But since celebrations can be found all around the old French territories in the Southern Gulf, we decided to take inspiration from Creole, Cajun and Southern cuisine for our menu that night.

March 2019 Fam Din
Seestrah T was up to bat first.

Shrimp and Grits seemed like a great option but she had already made a knock out version to pair with the brisket V smoked awhile back.

March 2019 Fam Din
Thankfully by the powers of Google searches, she stumbled upon a recipe for Crab Beignets.

Crabs? YES PLEASE!

Beignets? HECK YES!

Can’t have a nod to this region without including lots of seafood and beginets!

March 2019 Fam Din

These savory beignets were filled with goodies like LOTS of lump crab meat, onions, peppers, hot sauce, eggs, milk and baking soda for that lift. They were then rolled in cake flour and deep fried until golden brown.

We dunked them in a rémoulade and DING-DING-DING-DING-DING!

Nuggets of joy I tell you.

March 2019 Fam Din
We all agreed that they were more like fritters than what you initially think of when you say “beignet”.

But none of us cared because we were too busy stuffing them into our mouths.

March 2019 Fam Din
Since moving back to California, Luna has taken a great interest in helping out in the kitchen – particularly during Fam Din. She’s become more and more comfortable with her knife skills (under supervision of course) and is cooking complete dishes with her folks’ guidance.

All skills that we put to work as she helped her parents prep their dish for that night – Crawfish Étouffée.

March 2019 Fam Din
Étouffée is French for “smothered or suffocated” and is a thick sauce (practically a stew) made most often with shellfish. It’s traditionally served over rice and it all begins with a “roux“.

A roux is a mixture of a type of fat and flour that has been cooked down to thicken a sauce. I’ve read in a few places that if your roux is made with butter and flour, it’s Creole. If it’s made with oil and flour, it’s Cajun. But please don’t quote me on that– it has the makings of an ongoing debate I sure as heck have no authority to settle.

March 2019 Fam Din
V and L searched and searched for fresh crawfish to use in their étouffée but were out of luck. Crawfish season (crayfish, crawdads, mudbugs – whatever nomenclature you prefer) in California usually doesn’t start until July but sometimes you can find them in Asian grocery stores a bit earlier.

At the end of the day we opted to use the seawater cousin of crawfish – langostinos. These wild caught langostino tails can be found in 2 pound packs in the freezer section at Costco and they’re an awesome substitute. So yes, technically, we had Langostino Étouffée and not Crawfish Étouffée. The langostinos are quite sweet, tender – and these are SHELLED by hand so you don’t have to do the work!

March 2019 Fam Din

After they spent some TLC getting a rich and dark roux (for that deep nutty flavor), they added aromatics and A TON OF EXTRA BUTTER! Kerrygold Irish Salted Butter – it’s their fav.

And then all the glorious langostinos joined the party!

March 2019 Fam Din
Delish right?

March 2019 Fam Din
They served their étouffée over a big scoop of white rice. Can you guess which kind?

Uncle Ben’s!! SERIOUSLY!

They were told that it’s what’s commonly used – so we did it! To be honest, we weren’t even sure how to cook Uncle Ben’s white rice. But when all was said and done, it was perfect.

March 2019 Fam Din
In fact, it’s one of those things that tasted even better the next day!

By then the flavors had extra time to meld and party together which made me VERY happy to have leftovers.

March 2019 Fam Din
V & L were overwhelmed with joy at how well their dish turned out.

March 2019 Fam Din

And like all of the munchkins at some point have done, Nini is wondering —“Is this my family???”

March 2019 Fam Din
Seester N directed the last two savory items of the night…with the assistance of the kiddos, of course.

Luna helped her big cousie Nina get the corn meal dredge prepared for the catfish that had been soaked in buttermilk, hot sauce and spices.

March 2019 Fam Din
After the fillets were coated in the cornmeal, they hung out for a little bit on a rack so that the coating would set.

March 2019 Fam Din
They were then deep fried for a few minutes until golden brown. Southern Fried Catfish –mmmmm!

(Psssst…..I spy a box of Uncle Ben’s in the corner.)

March 2019 Fam Din
N also felt that if we were going to be in this region, we should have some okra. Hey- we did need some veggies.

So she dredged them and threw them in the hot oil, too. Because nothing says healthy veggies more than Cornmeal Fried Okra.

Work with us people…..

March 2019 Fam Din
Doesn’t this plate just look heavenly???

March 2019 Fam Din
We added generous douses of fresh lemon juice over it all to brighten the flavors and it was scrumptious!

The leftover fried catfish were remade the next day into little sliders on rolls with a schmear of the rémoulade from the Crab Beignets. I’m telling you, leftovers are a clutch component of Fam Din and we are always SUPER bummed during the months when our “doggie bags” are lighter than others.

March 2019 Fam Din
DROOLS.

Doesn’t this make you want to chug some Hurricanes and run around in elaborate costumes on floats?!?

Side note: I did consider whipping up a batch of Hurricanes for the occasion but really…. Although it would have been on trend for the theme, who in their right minds actually like the tastes of hurricanes?!? Tooth-achingly sweet and so boozy it could combust into flames.

BLEH!

So we stuck to lots of vino instead.

March 2019 Fam Din
Our Humanlings!

And a few photobombers in the background.

OMIGOSH – how the heck did that Uncle Ben’s box manage to squeeze itself into another picture????

March 2019 Fam Din
Okay, let’s talk about dessert now, shall we?

I really struggled on this one, peeps. The sweet bite often seen during Mardi Gras is King Cake. In the states, King Cake is a sweet bread dough that is braided and formed into a ring. After it’s baked, it’s drizzled with an icing and decorated in the colors of the celebration – purple, green, yellow. According to an article from Eater,

“King cake is eaten on January 6 in honor of Epiphany, or Twelfth Night, which historically marks the arrival of the three wise men/kings in Bethlehem who delivered gifts to the baby Jesus. The plastic baby hidden inside king cakes today is a nod to this story.”

March 2019 Fam Din
That is all fine and dandy.

But here’s the thing–if I want a dessert, I don’t want to have something that evokes a breakfast pastry. And to me, that’s what King Cake tastes like.

I could’ve tried traditional desserts for the season from outside of the US like galette des rois, gâteau des rois or roscón de reyes. But I just didn’t think that any of them would’ve been a hit with the fam – particularly the kiddos.

Of course, there was the sweet beignet route, too. However Seestrah P has made beignets in the past before and nothing I could’ve made in that thread would’ve topped her Cafe du Monde inspired Beignets with Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream.

March 2019 Fam Din
So I took some MAJOR liberties and finally settled on a French dessert – Profiteroles!

I figured a French influenced dessert still had a home in a Mardi Gras menu, right? Another stretch? But I went with it and nabbed Maya and Nina to help make the choux pastry.

Bella volunteered to guard them as they puffed and baked in the oven.

March 2019 Fam Din
The choux pastry came together quick and easy (especially when you finagle 2 nieces to help you) and can be filled with just about anything. Common fillings are whipped cream, pastry cream, custard, fruit but I wanted use ice cream so that we could have a variety to choose from.

March 2019 Fam DinPLUS it gave me the perfect segue to bring in the colors of Mardi Gras based on the ice cream flavor:

March 2019 Fam Din
Since I didn’t make the ice creams (or gelato) myself, I felt compelled to make a chocolate sauce from Bouchon to drizzle over the tops. This WAS in honor of Fat Tuesday!

We created an assembly line where Nini filled the choux with ice cream, I drizzled the chocolate sauce and Luna topped them with matching sprinkles. Teamwork makes the dream work….especially when it’s this yummy.

And no surprises here but the the King Cake was not missed.

March 2019 Fam DinAnd guess what we did after we ate all of that?

We spent over an hour watching YouTube videos of people traveling all over Asia eating delicious (and sometimes crazy looking) foods. We’ve got some issues, I know.

I’m just going to call it research.

March 2019 Fam Din
Until next time Friends….Cheers! ❤

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Various Wines
Appetizers: Crab Beignets with Rémoulade
Entree: Crawfish Étouffée, Southern Fried Catfish
Sides: Cornmeal Fried Okra, Rice
Dessert: Profiteroles filled with Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce

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Appetizers/Small Plates · Sunday Family Dinner

N’awlins Seafood Boil for Sunday Family Dinner & Cajun Crab Puffs

Cajun Crab Puffs

In May, we began our new tradition of Sunday Family Dinners. And although each month has been wonderful, September was a milestone as it was the first dinner that all of my siblings and their families were in attendance. My brother and his family were in from NYC and my sister from SF came down….it was a full house!

Sunday Family Dinner

With all the sibs in attendance, we needed to have an epic Sunday Family Dinner. The theme for our dinner was a N’awlins inspired Seafood Boil! Crabs, Lobsters, Prawns, Crawfish, Calamari, Clams, Oysters— OH MY! We seriously threw down over 50 pounds of seafood!

Sunday Family Dinner

For dessert, my sister P, whipped up fresh beignets showered with powdered sugar and served with homemade Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream. The beignets were so beautifully tender and crispy…. and the ice cream was To Die For.

Sunday Family Dinner

My contribution for the night were these little appetizers that I was initially going to call Baby Po’Boys but have since changed the name to Cajun Crab Puffs. These little buggers were TASTY! The crab was wonderfully sweet and paired well with the spicy aioli. The tomato and scallions gave a bright, fresh note and c’mon…who doesn’t love flaky, butter puff pastry?!

Sunday Family Dinner

But as decadently delicious as everything was, it was just incredible to have everyone under one roof again. The kids were running around and they even made personalized “seafood bibs” for each of us out of trash bags. Adorable and quite useful!

And although it was a bit chaotic (c’mon, what family shinding isn’t?), it was the epitome of why we started Sunday Family Dinners in the first place.

Cajun Crab Puffs

ps. These Cajun Crab Puffs were really yummy and easy to pull together. With the holidays now in full swing, they would be a great appetizer for any party you may be having.

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Endless Prosecco and Vino
Appetizers: Cajun Crab Puffs
Entrees: Cajun Seafood Boil–Lobster, Shrimp, Crawdads, Shrimp, Shellfish
Dessert: Beignets with homemade Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream

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Cajun Crab Puffs

Ingredients:

½ tablespoon minced garlic
1 large egg yolk
½ tablespoon lemon juice
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ tablespoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
6 ounces lump crab
2-3 pinches cayenne powder
1 cup cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced
¼ cup chopped chives (although I used scallions)

Prepare the aioli. Add garlic, egg yolk, and lemon juice into a blender. Pulse several times until the items have blended together. Turn the blender on low and slowly stream in the olive oil. Continue to blend until all of the oil has been used and the consistency reaches a thick consistency. Blend in the hot sauce and Old Bay. Check for seasonings and adjust with kosher salt and pepper as needed. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Take the sheet of puff pastry and cut squares about 1½ inch in diameter. Bake the squares for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on wire racks. Once cooled, slice each square in half.

Season the lump crab with cayenne powder.

Begin assembling the puffs. Take one half of a puff pastry square and top with a slice of tomato and a spoonful of crab. Drizzle some of the aioli on top of the crab and then garnish with chives. Top with the other half of the puff pastry square. Repeat with the remaining ingredients and serve.