Posts Tagged ‘New Orleans’

Mardi Gras’ Catholic Roots

February 4, 2016

Mardi GrasMardi Gras, literally “Fat Tuesday,” has grown in popularity in recent years as a raucous, sometimes hedonistic event. Its roots lie in the Christian calendar, as the “last hurrah” before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.

What is less known about Mardi Gras is its relation to the Christmas season, through the ordinary-time interlude known in many Catholic cultures as Carnival. Ordinary time, in the Christian calendar, refers to the normal “ordering” of time outside of the Advent/Christmas or Lent/Easter seasons.

Carnival comes from the Latin words carne vale, meaning “farewell to the flesh.” Like many Catholic holidays and seasonal celebrations, it has its roots in pre-Christian traditions based on the seasons. As early as the middle of the second century, the Romans observed a Fast of 40 Days, which was preceded by a brief season of feasting, costumes and merrymaking.

The Carnival season kicks off with the Epiphany, also known as Twelfth Night, Three Kings’ Day and, in the Eastern churches, Theophany. Epiphany, which falls on January 6, 12 days after Christmas, celebrates the visit of the Wise Men bearing gifts for the infant Jesus. In cultures that celebrate Carnival, Epiphany kicks off a series of parties leading up to Mardi Gras.

Epiphany is also traditionally when celebrants serve King’s Cake, a custom that began in France in the 12th century. Legend has it that the cakes were made in a circle to represent the circular routes that the Wise Men took to find Jesus, in order to confuse King Herod and foil his plans of killing the Christ Child. In the early days, a coin or bean was hidden inside the cake, and whoever found the item was said to have good luck in the coming year. In Louisiana, bakers now put a small baby, representing the Christ Child, in the cake; the recipient is then expected to host the next King Cake party.

Mardi Gras came to the New World in 1699, when a French explorer arrived at the Mississippi River, about 60 miles south of present day New Orleans. He named the spot Point du Mardi Gras because he knew the holiday was being celebrated in his native country that day.

Eventually the French in New Orleans celebrated Mardi Gras with masked balls and parties, until the Spanish government took over in the mid-1700s and banned the celebrations. The ban continued even after the U.S. government acquired the land but the celebrations resumed in 1827. The official colors of Mardi Gras, with their roots in Catholicism, were chosen 10 years later: purple, a symbol of justice; green, representing faith; and gold, to signify power.

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And The Recipe for Beck’s Bread Pudding Is…

March 10, 2013

Beck’s World Famous Bread Pudding

Bread PuddingThis recipe is inspired by bread pudding that we had at a famous New Orleans restaurant. There’s absolutely no chance that I’ll tell you the name here. We then perfected it for Beck’s Cajun Cafe in Philadelphia and it has been a favorite at the restaurants ever since.

Custard Mix

10 eggs

2.72 cups Light brown sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

0.25 tsp Allspice

Pinch nutmeg

0.75 tsp pure bourbon vanilla extract

2 qt. heavy cream

0.50 qt. whole milk

8 cups, cubed bread (day old or stale)

Faux caramel & Fruit mix

0.50 cup light brown sugar

1 ea Apple sliced

0.25 cup Raisins or minced dried fruit

2 tbl water

3 tbs butter  (reserve 1 tbl to grease bottom of baking dish)

Equipment needed

9x 12x 1.5 baking dish

chef’s knife

cutting board

large kitchen spoon

high heat rubber spatula

mixing bowls

wire whisk

measuring spoons

measuring cups

1 qt. sauce pot

oven

Procedure:

1)    Skin the bread of exterior crust and cube to 3/4/x 3/4 size .(If it is a little over in size don’t worry about it the custard will break down any excessively large pieces as it rests for twenty minute to a half hour before putting in the oven) Set cubed bread aside.

2)    Custard: Add eggs to the mixing bowl and mix to combine yolks and white of eggs, add rest of ingredients and mix well. Taste the custard to see if you like the way it tastes. You may want to add a little more of the cinnamon or the nutmeg depending on the age and potency of the products and there source.

3)    Faux caramel: Place sauce pot on the stove with the water and sugar on a med flame  and mix , when mixture starts to simmer stir continuously for one minute to reduce and marry the sugar and water fully, turn off the flame , remove from the stove and stir gently the butter (2 tbl ) in to the mix. Set aside for a minute.

4)    Grease the baking dish with reserved amount of butter you have set aside

5)    Leaving the skin on the apples, you will now box cut the apples into 4 pieces…Here’s how. Lay the apple down on your cutting board the fat end towards you. You will take the knife in hand and cut just slightly to the right of the center of the apple just to the right of the steam as well. The goal here is to just miss the core so that we are getting all the useable flesh for our wonderfully homey bread pudding. After cutting you will now have one flat side to the apple, place that flat side downward on your cutting board and repeat same cutting actions again removing yet another piece of apple. Do twice more and you will have nothing put the seeded core of the apple left to discard. The core of the apple if you look at it from top to bottom is now in a box shape.  Slice the four remaining pieces of apple into 1/8 thick slice and place on the bottom of the greased baking dish randomly yet evenly. If you need to hold the apples after cutting for any length of time during the prep of this dish hold them in lemon water so they don’t oxidize ( go brown)

6)    Pour the faux caramel while it is hot, or at least warm( you want the mix to be pliable so that it can be evenly placed over all the apples , additionally you don’t want to lose any to the bottom of the sauce pot because it has cooled to much) You may need to reheat it.

7)    Place bread cubes evenly over the apples/ faux caramel sauce; add custard followed by the raisins. Push the cubed bread into the custard mix so they absorb the custard; do this three times over the next twenty minutes so the bread has evenly absorbed the custard.

8)     Place on center rack of 275 degree pre heated oven for two hours. It is cooked low and slow so that the flavors become concentrated without losing the moister. The top will be light brown and crispy. You can serve this with ice cream, macerated fruit or as we do at Beck’s with a whiskey sauce. Any way you do it, it’s gonna be great, just serve it warm.

Beck’s Crawfish Boil, Don’t Miss It!

March 16, 2012

Run, don’t walk, to Beck’s Cajun Cafe this weekend for their Crawfish Boil!

The Radiators, one of New Orleans favorite bands, say it best: “Suck the head, Squeeze the tip.”  They’re talking about eating crawfish, of course.

Never tried fresh crawfish?  You don’t know what you’re missing!  Head to Beck’s Cajun Cafe  this weekend for a traditional Crawfish boil!  Chef Bill will be combining the season’s freshest crawfish shipped directly from the Gulf, with corn, potatoes, a healthy dousing of Yuengling beer, and a signature blend of his spice rubs to create a giant pot of Cajun heaven.

See you there!

St. Patrick’s Day in New Orleans

March 13, 2012

You know the Big Easy never misses a chance for a parade and a party.  The New Orleans St. Patrick’s Day celebration, which goes on for nearly a week, is no exception. (Thank you Neworleansonline.com)

New Orleans has historically been home to many different immigrant populations, and starting in the mid 1800s,  large numbers of Irish have made it their home.  Pair the Irish traditions surrounding St. Patrick’s day with New Orleans Parades and festivities and you’ve got a heck of a party.

We were intrigued–and a bit alarmed–to learn that the Mardi Gras tradition of throwing little prizes off the floats into the cheering crowds is alive and well on St. Patrick’s day–the alarming part is that they throw cabbages, potatoes, and carrots.

This woman is obviously stocking up for a crowd:

More on St. Patrick’s Day in New Orleans here  (Thanks to Stpatricksdayneworleans.com).

Whatever (and wherever) your St. Patrick’s Day plans take you, Beck’s wishes you a fun, safe celebration, and as always, Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Battle of the Chefs

February 4, 2010

Just in. Bill Beck will be on Good Day Philadelphia on Friday for a Superbowl segment showcasing the foods that represent New Orleans and the foods that represent Indianapolis. Guess which side he’ll be on. The show airs around 9:20. If you are interested in goin’ Cajun for your Superbowl party, give us a call!