RECIPE: FLUFFY BEIGNETS

Pate a choux pastry is used to make all sorts of dessert deliciousness. Churros, éclairs, profiteroles, and even towering croquembouches are made from choux pastry. Beignets can also be made from choux but isn’t often used in the South; most chefs make the chewier, rolled yeast variety of beignets like they serve at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. I prefer a fluffy choux beignet which have been made famousby my buddy Panini Pete. If you make it to his place in Fairhope or Mobile, Alabama, you'll see an early morning line forming for Pete's beignets. They taste more like a hot doughnut and are delicious fried dough heaven. Sprinkled with Confectioners’ sugar while they are hot. Serve with a squeeze of lemon. These won’t hold well once your squeeze the lemon over them but then again, they’ll go so fast you won’t have to worry about that.

FLUFFY BEIGNETS

Prep Time: 12 minutes   Cook Time: 7-8 minutes per batch

INGREDIENTS

1 ½ cups water

6 ounces unsalted butter

1 ½ cups all purpose flour

6 eggs, room temperature

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Canola oil for frying

Food thermometer

Confectioners’ sugar and lemon wedges for garnish

DIRECTIONS: 

Put canola oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat and bring it to 350 degrees F.

Mix the salt into the flour.  

Put the water and butter in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and whisk in the flour all at one time to combine and form dough which will pull away from the side of the pan. Switch to a wooden spoon. Add the eggs, two at a time, blending well with the wooden spoon between each addition. Beat the dough with the wooden spoon until it goes from ‘slippery’ and glossy to matte.  Add the vanilla and stir to incorporate.

Scoop the dough with a small ice cream scoop and place in the hot oil. Take care not to over crowd the pot or the temperature of the oil will drop and your beignets will soak up oil. Fry for 7-8 minutes, turning the beignets around frequently in the oil. Drain on paper toweling.

Serve warm with a dusting of Confectioners’ sugar and lemon, lime, or orange wedges.

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RECIPE: MY MOM'S SPICY SOUTHERN CHEESE STRAWS

My mom would always make spicy cheese straws for the holidays and was sure to have them waiting for us for almost every celebration. A Southern staple for teas, weddings and showers, you can make these as wafers, as shown, or use a cookie press to shape them into straws. I find the wafers faster and easier-- plus I can roll the dough into a log and freeze. That way I can just slice and bake when guests pop in or when I am in need of a quick bite to serve with a glass of wine or Champagne.

I want to mention that this dough always looks like it is not "wet" enough once you mix it. Do not be tempted to add additional butter or liquid. It will come together. Just use your hands to form it. You'll see.

Baked cheese straws are always on the table for parties and celebrations in the South. This is my mom's recipe- one I've used for 30 years.

Baked cheese straws are always on the table for parties and celebrations in the South. This is my mom's recipe- one I've used for 30 years.

SPICY SOUTHERN CHEESE STRAWS

Skill Level: Easy

Prep Time: 15 minutes        Cook Time: 10-12 minutes

 INGREDIENTS 

1 pound extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into cubes*

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Dash Tabasco or to taste

 DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Chill the cheese well and grate it using a food processor or the side with large holes on a box grater. Set aside.

NOTE: I make this recipe in a food processor because I find it easier but you do not have to use a food processor. My mom never had one. Just mix in a bowl.

In a food processor, add the flour, salt and pepper and pulse 10-12 times to blend. Add the butter. Turn the food processor to "run" for 10 seconds. The result should be like coarse cornmeal. If it is not, pulse a few more times. Add the cheese and the hot sauce. Pulse just until the cheese is incorporated. Turn the food processor to "run" for 5-6 seconds. 

*NOTE: If you intend to pipe the dough into straws, you may obtain a better/easier to pipe result if you melt the butter rather than use cold butter and leave the cheese at room temperature. See directions for piping into straws below. Many of the old school southern recipes call for melted butter.

(Note: If you do not have a food processor, mix the dry ingredients together. Use a pastry cutter or two forks to cut the butter and the cheese into the flour. Add the hot sauce and mix well.)

For wafers: Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap for wafers. Shape it into a log using your hands and roll the dough up in the plastic. Twist the ends of the plastic wrap to secure and put into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. To bake, remove the plastic wrap and slice into discs, place about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a rack.

(Note: Another option is to use a very small ice cream scoop to portion uniform balls onto the prepared pan. Using a fork, (which you may need to flour) press each one, creating the design shown above.)

Easy homemade Southern cheese straws

For straws: Place the dough into a cookie press or pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Push the dough into one corner of the bag and press the air out. Snip the tip and pipe them into 3” long strips about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom and edges.

Yield: 2- 4 dozen depending on the size and shape. You can get 55-60 wafers from this recipe using a small ice cream scoop or melon baller.

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RECIPE: CLASSIC DEVILED EGGS

You won’t go to a celebration down south and not find deviled eggs. Every holiday, picnic, barbeque, or funeral will have classic Southern deviled eggs. I like to twist it up a little and add toppings so guests can create their own flavor favorites. Almost anything tastes good sitting on top of a deviled egg! This is the classic deviled egg recipe I learned from my mom. My Wicked Deviled Eggs have a bit more heat.

Classic Southern Deviled Egg recipe by Martie Duncan

CLASSIC SOUTHERN DEVILED EGGS

Category: Side Dish   Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time: 45 minutes including 17 minutes for the boiled eggs

INGREDIENTS

12 hard-boiled eggs; get my method here

5-6 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 teaspoon yellow mustard

2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish

1/2  teaspoon kosher salt- you may want more depending on your taste

Black pepper to taste

Paprika for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

Carefully cut the boiled eggs in half, saving the halves to stuff. Put the yolks into a glass bowl. Add the mayonnaise and mustard. I prefer a thicker consistency but add more or less mayo depending on the consistency you like. Use a fork to mash it all together until somewhat creamy; if there are some bits of egg peeking through, that’s ok. Add the salt, pepper and relish. Check the seasoning. You may want to add a bit more salt. Combine well.

Spoon the yolks into the egg whites or make a pastry bag from a plastic zip top bag. Spoon the mixture into the bag and push it into the corner and squeeze out the air. Snip the end and pipe nice little swirls onto your egg. I can do this so trust me, it’s not hard. Chill until serving time, at least 1 hour. Garnish with chopped parsley or chives.

Makes 2 dozen eggs.

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