Saturday, March 19, 2011

Viva San Giuseppe!!!!

Today may very well be my favorite holiday of the year and I never miss the chance to celebrate, even if I am not with my nearest and dearest. If you don't know about the tradition, check this out. Last year I had my own altar and table but this year, well, I am just so tired of entertaining and having a house full of people (Mardi Gras was great but I'm glad it is over!). So instead, I decided to altar hop. I ended up going to SIX different altars today, ate my own body weight in cuccidati, made my own abbreviated dinner in Joe's honor and ended the day with some gelato. Love this day and LOVE celebrating it in New Orleans where the tradition is still going strong!

First, I went to St Alphonsus. This was the church I went to for my first St. Joseph's Day in New Orleans many years ago. There weren't nearly as many people there as I remembered but it was still lovely; we ate at tables set out in a pretty courtyard with azalea bushes in full bloom. This is where I ate my main meal of the day and it included baked redfish, shrimp risotto, artichoke milanese, pasta with egg and salad. THe risotto was new for me and it was delicious. Everything else was good, not outstanding, but solid. Next year, I will have to bring my own red pepper flakes (absent) and a bottle of wine (not box).

Next, I went to St. Stephen's. I didn't eat there but they looked like they had pasta con sarde! It was also a much bigger crowd. Not only did they have an elaborate altar, but there was also the lady playing "O Sole Mio" on the ukelele. Awesome.

I love in New Orleans that they have bread shaped like crabs, crawfish and alligators. I'm used to just plain old crosses and staffs.

Next I went to someone's house that was open to the public, how cool is that! This was an extremely lavish altar, with bowls of boiled crawfish and plates of stuffed crab (that was only for the altar, the food offering was just pasta and some fried cabbage and artichokes). I don't know if people there knew each other or not but I really got a kick out of overhearing other people talking about which of their family members came over from Sicily and other little personal tidbits.

St Augustine's, small but sweet. And the first altar I saw with honey balls! (Pignolata)

St Joseph's, apparently the largest church in the South.

Finally, I went over to the gelato shop around the corner, Brocato's.

Weary and heavily laden with cookies, prayer cards and fava beans, I returned home, all altared out. But I wanted to make an appropriate meal so I made Gramma Bondi's cabbage patties and cooked up some skate with a butter-lemon-caper sauce. It fit the bill perfectly! Then, what the hell, I walked back over to Brocato's, where Ben and I finished up with gelato and espresso, a very fine day indeed!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Chocolate Guinness Pudding

It often surprise me how pervasive St Patrick's Day is in this country. It really doesn't seem to matter much what your ethnicity or race is, people love to drink green milkshakes and swill beer on March 17th. Although I am approximately 1/16 Irish, I don't connect much with that part of my heritage, nor do I care much for St Patrick's Day. I don't have anything against it, mind you, it is just overshadowed by MY FAVORITE HOLIDAY, St Joseph's Day, which happens to fall two days after. More on that come Saturday. Anyway, I saw this recipe for Chocolate Guinness pudding and I could not resist. It is just as delicious as it sounds!

* 8 large egg yolks
* 1 cup sugar
* One 14.9-ounce can Guinness Draught
* 3 cups heavy cream
* 7 ounces high-quality bittersweet (70 to 72% cacao) chocolate, finely chopped

In large nonreactive mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar.

Open can of Guinness and slowly pour into 4-cup measuring cup, pouring down side of cup to reduce foaming. Pour half of Guinness (about 7/8 cup) into heavy-bottomed 3-quart saucepan. Add 2 1/4 cups cream and whisk to combine. Set over medium heat and heat, whisking occasionally, until bubbles just begin to form at edges. Remove from heat, add chocolate, and whisk until smooth.

Slowly pour hot chocolate mixture into eggs, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. Return mixture to saucepan and set over moderately low heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens and coats back of spoon, about 15 minutes. (Pudding will look separated.) Pour into blender and blend on high for 1 minute. Divide pudding among glasses, leaving at least 1 inch of space at top of each. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled and set.

Meanwhile, pour remaining Guinness into small saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to moderately low and simmer, uncovered, until reduced to 1 tablespoon, about 20 minutes. Pour syrup into small bowl and let cool.

Beat remaining cream until soft peaks form. Add Guinness syrup and beat until combined. Divide cream among 6 glasses of pudding and serve.

My thoughts: I halved this and I still got six, er, um five (I swear I don't know what happened to that sixth one!) 4 ounce servings. This is rich so I think 4 ounces is fine, although, who am I kidding, I could easily eat 6. I also halved the half of cream it called for because I didn't have any more and also because I wanted a more unadulterated chocolate flavor. It worked. Finally, I thought the reduced beer in the whipped cream tasted sour and not good at all but when you eat it all in one bite, it comes together but I might skip that next time. The pudding itself is just so perfect on it's own.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Last Night I Spotted a Unicorn!

No, not really, but I felt like I did when i spotted the elusive Hubig's king cake at the grocery store! I've been scouring the city to find one since Three King's Day and finally got my hands on one. It looked a little worse for wear and quite honestly, it wasn't nearly as good as a plain old Hubig's pie that you can get all year round but hey, now I can say that I tried it!