Creole for Carnival
For many years at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen, we used to do a New Orleans menu surrounding the Mardi Gras holiday. However, about five years ago we decided to shift the focus of the restaurant from regions of America and their foodways to seasons and seasonally appropriate food. In doing this we were able to take several dishes from the New Orleans menu and incorporate them into a seasonal menu which celebrated the Carnival season—the whole month leading up to Mardi Gras. Some people happen to visit us for the first time during the winter months, when we feature our Mid-Winter Carnival menu with classic New Orleans dishes, so naturally, they think we’re a Cajun restaurant. We devote our feature menu (which we rotate seasonally, about every six weeks) to New Orleans dishes because in winter time, not too many things are in season and folks get tired of eating turnips. So, we cook some unseasonal things, like Gumbo, Fried Oysters, Boudin Balls, and our Vietnamese Po’Boy.
The carnival season in Louisiana goes from January 6th (traditionally known as “Twelfth Night,” “King’s Day,” or “Epiphany”) through the day before Ash Wednesday. Some years it’s five weeks long and some years it’s nine weeks long, so we like to pay tribute to that by starting our New Orleans Mid-Winter Carnival menu on the first Wednesday after the new year, and going all the way up until Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras.
This year we get to celebrate these New Orleans dishes a little bit longer than we did last year. Some of these dishes are a bit involved, so most won’t make them at home, which is why we enjoy featuring them at the restaurant. In our previous post, we mentioned our Grillades and Grits, Gumbo, and Red Beans and Rice, which are some classic New Orleans staples that are part of this Mid-Winter Carnival menu. We make Boudin Balls instead of traditional Cajun boudin (pork sausage), which is piped into links, steamed, and eaten with mustard. It’s really a tribute to the heritage of German settlers of southwest Louisiana. We prefer to make little fritters out of our boudin, deep fry them, and serve them with a mustard sauce.
We also serve a fried oyster appetizer with creamed spinach, which is evocative of Oysters Rockefeller, and our version of a bahn mi, which is a Vietnamese Po’Boy, in tribute to the sizable Vietnamese population in east New Orleans. There really is a vibrant new cuisine that is being incorporated into every aspect of New Orleans culture. We even make an Eggplant Creole, which is a southern Louisiana version of eggplant parmesan. We make ours with provolone cheese and a chunky creole sauce, reminiscent of a marinara.
- 2 each eggplant (slice into 20 – ½” thick rounds)
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup whole milk
- 2 tsp Cajun Spice Blend (see recipe)
- 2 cups breadcrumbs
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 fl oz canola oil
- 10 slices provolone cheese
- 2 cups Creole Sauce (see recipe)
- 5 tbsp grated Reggiano Parmesan cheese
Trim ends from eggplant and slice into ½” thick rounds. Combine eggs, milk and 1 teaspoon Cajun Spice Blend. Combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt and 1 teaspoon Cajun Spice Blend. Set up a dredge station by placing the following items in three separate shallow pans: 1. flour, 2. egg/milk mix, 3. breadcrumb mix.
Run each slice of eggplant through the dredge station in the order listed and place on parchment paper. Heat oil in skillet until hot. Brown eggplant slices on both sides over medium heat. Top each slice with ½ slice provolone cheese and allow to melt. Sauce plate with Creole Sauce. Top sauce with slightly overlapping slices of eggplant. Garnish with grated Reggiano Parmesan. Serves 4-6
Creole Spice Blend
- 2 ½ tbsp paprika
- 2 tbsp salt
- 2 tbsp garlic powder
- 3 tsp black pepper
- 3 tsp onion powder
- 3 tsp cayenne pepper
- 3 tsp oregano leaves
- 3 tsp thyme leaves
Add all ingredients to a large bowl and combine with a whisk until spices are evenly distributed. Store in an air tight container with lid. Makes – ¾ cup
To end on a sweet note, the Mid-Winter Carnival menu features Red Velvet Cupcakes and our Bananas Foster Bread Pudding, which is a hybrid of two classic New Orleans desserts. Bananas Foster is a classic table-side preparation of flambéed bananas served over ice cream, which is always quite an exciting presentation. Basically what we do is make an old-school, boozy bread pudding that most people expect, and combine it with white chocolate and flambeed bananas, then serve it with the actual Foster sauce. It’s pretty awesome because it’s essentially the best of both desserts.
White Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding with Foster Sauce
- 1 loaf ciabatta or French bread, diced
- 2/3 cup light brown sugar
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream
- ½ cup milk
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- 3 oz white chocolate block, shaved
- 1 tbsp butter, softened
- 1 ½ bananas, diced ½ inch
- 1 tbsp butter, melted
- 1 tbsp Myer’s Dark Rum
- 1 tbsp Crème De Banana
- 1 quart Foster Sauce (see recipe)
- Whipped cream (optional)
- Vanilla ice cream (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly toast diced bread in oven. Using pan spray, lubricate a 7 x 12 baking pan. In a mixing bowl, whisk together ½ cup brown sugar, cream, milk and beaten eggs. Add vanilla, cinnamon, bread and chocolate. Stir to blend thoroughly. Heat a sauté pan over medium heat; add softened butter. When melted add bananas and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add remaining brown sugar and mix with a rubber spatula until sugar is melted. Remove pan from heat and add rum and banana liqueur. Return pan to heat and ignite alcohol. When flames die, fold bananas and syrup into bread pudding mixture. Stir in melted butter. Mix well and transfer to baking pan. Bake until firm, about 45 minutes. Makes – 6 portions
Recipe: Foster Sauce
- 1 stick butter
- 1 pound light brown sugar
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 1 ½ tbsp Myers Dark Rum
- 1 ½ tbsp Crème De Banana
Melt butter in a sauce pan and stir in brown sugar. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly for three minutes. Add remaining ingredients and simmer until sauce is nappé (coats a spoon); about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and serve. Makes – 1 quart
Place warmed portion of bread pudding in a shallow bowl. Ladle warm Foster Sauce over and serve with a garnish of whipped cream and vanilla ice cream.
All of these things for me are ultimate comfort foods and we look forward to making them for our guests every year. If you pay close attention, you may even notice that we spike our playlist with some south Louisiana favorites, such as Dr. John, Professor Longhair, and The Neville Brothers, to further amp up the festive atmosphere.