Mardi Gras

Cottonball

A Mardi Gras Celebration starts with traditional, New Orleans-style beignets! Click below for recipes, tips and ingredients.


  • Best Beignet Video Contest Results
    NCPA Announces Video Contest Winner!  
  • Mardi Gras Revelers Cook Up Their “Best Beignets”
    Video entries showcase a variety of beignet recipes, tips


    03.01.2011– Just in time for Mardi Gras, the National Cottonseed Products Association (NCPA) is revealing the delicious results of its national “Best Beignet” video contest. Piping hot and piled high with powdered sugar, pillowy beignets are a “must” on any proper Mardi Gras menu. And while the traditional, Café du Monde-style beignet is always a favorite, the “Best Beignet” video entries revealed a bevy of beignet recipes and styles from across the country.





    NCPA’s “Best Beignet” video contest challenged entrants to demonstrate in three minutes or less their tips for creating their personal best beignet, fried in cottonseed oil. The grand prize: $5,000.



    Entrants ranged from professional New Orleans-based chefs and food bloggers to mother-daughter and -son duos. However, the entry that took the cake – or beignet, rather – was submitted by Dr. Scott Vernon of Nipomo, Calif. His winning video featured 11-year-old son Kyler, a Food Network star in the making, with his brother, Conner, acting as cameraman. In the video, “Chef Kyler” skillfully demonstrates the art of making homemade beignets, provides an overview of the benefits of cooking with cottonseed oil, and even gives a “shout out” to America’s cotton growers.





    Other contest highlights included a creative demonstration from Café du Monde’s experts themselves; a unique Double Banana’s Foster Beignet recipe, using the “drop method,” from Chef Tory McPhail of New Orleans’ Commander’s Palace; and an exceptional entry by food blogger Doniree Walker, featuring her mouth-watering Chocolate Bourbon Orange dipping sauce. To view all of the “Best Beignet” video entries, visit www.YouTube.com/cottonseedoiltour.





    “Regardless of the dough recipe, technique or topping, each entrant thoughtfully demonstrated that the key to creating a bead-worthy beignet is choosing the right cooking oil: neutral, trans free cottonseed oil, which the experts at Café du Monde have used for generations,” says Ben Morgan, executive vice president, National Cottonseed Products Association.

    



    For additional beignet tips and recipes, visit www.cottonseedoiltour.com/mardi-gras. Cottonseed oil, America’s original vegetable oil and a favorite in the South, is naturally trans free and cholesterol free, and is an excellent source of vitamin E. Consumers can purchase cottonseed oil at various sporting goods stores, including Bass Pro Shops, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Sportsman’s Warehouse.

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  • Recipe
    Looking for an easy beignet recipe? You’ve found it.  
  • Looking to make your own homemade beignets?  Order Café du Monde’s Beignet Mix and see if you can replicate the pillowy beignets made by the pros!

    Or, use this Homemade Mardi Gras Beignet recipe, adapted from Paula Deen’s French Quarter Beignets.

    Homemade Mardi Gras Beignets
    Recipe adapted from Paula Deen’s French Quarter Beignets

    Ingredients
    1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
    1/2 cup granulated sugar
    1 envelope active dry yeast
    2 eggs, slightly beaten
    1 1/4 teaspoons salt
    1 cup evaporated milk
    6 1/2 cups flour
    1/4 cup shortening
    Nonstick spray
    Cottonseed oil, for deep-frying
    Powdered sugar

    Directions
    Mix water, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl and let sit for 12 minutes.

    In another bowl, beat the eggs, salt and evaporated milk together. Mix egg mixture into larger bowl with yeast mixture. Stir 3 cups of the flour into the egg and yeast mixture. Add shortening and continue to stir while adding the remaining flour. Remove dough from the bowl, place onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray. Put dough into the bowl and cover with a towel. Let rise at room temperature for at least 2 hours.

    Preheat cottonseed oil in a deep frying pan to 370 degrees F. (Tip: Use the count test to determine if the cottonseed oil is hot enough. Drop a test beignet into the oil; if the beignet rises to the top of the oil within eight seconds, the oil is ready.)

    Roll the dough out to about 1/4-inch thickness and cut into small squares. Use a pizza roller for straight lines, or cookie cutters for fun shapes. Deep-fry until they turn golden, flipping or basting to allow even cooking. After the beignets are fried, drain briefly on paper towels, then transfer to a tray and cover generously with sprinkled powdered sugar. Serve warm.

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  • Tips
    Learn how to perfect the beignet with these helpful tips.  
  • First time making beignets? Perfect this delicious doughy treat with some tips from an expert, Café du Monde Vice President, Burt Benrud.

    1. Use the right oil
    “It’s all about the oil,” says Benrud. “We use only 100 percent cottonseed oil, which is very neutral in flavor, and won’t overpower the simple sweetness of the beignet.”

    Cottonseed oil is naturally trans free with a neutral flavor and high smoke point. The oil is commonly available in commercial quantities and popular among snack food manufacturers. Consumers can also purchase the oil at various sporting goods stores around the country.

    2. Turn up the heat

    “Arriving at a high temperature, around 370 degrees, is a crucial step,” he says. “Use the count test to determine if the cottonseed oil is hot enough. If the dough rises to the top of the oil within eight seconds, it’s ready.”

    3. Bite size is better

    “Scale down the size of each beignet,” he explains. “Café du Monde uses giant fryers and gallons of oil. At home, most cooks use a smaller skillet and a smaller quantity of oil, which together hold less heat. With smaller beignets, the heat reaches the inside more easily, making them perfectly light and puffy.”

    For helpful more tips, visit Café du Monde’s Web site.

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  • Where to Find Ingredients
    Perfect ingredients make the beignet. Find ingredients here.  
  • Café du Monde is known for its piping hot beignets, piled high with powdered sugar and served with café au lait. For generations, the company has been frying its beignets in only 100% cottonseed oil, contributing to their light taste and pillow-like texture.

    Cottonseed oil can be purchased at a number of locations, including national retailers and sporting goods supply stores:

    Bass Pro Shops, available in stores and
    Dick’s Sporting Goods
    Gander Mountain
    Meijer
    Mill’s Fleet Farm
    Sportsman’s Warehouse
    Turkey Gold by Cajun Injector,

    And to replicate the Café du Monde taste at home, purchase their beignet mix .

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  • Party Planning Tips
    Make your Mardi Gras a hit with these party planning tips.  
  • Known throughout The Big Easy, acclaimed New Orleans Event Planner, Thea Pagel, knows how to party. Follow her five easy tips to throw a perfect Mardi Gras celebration:

    1. Pick a Theme
    Mardi Gras parties know no boundaries. You can find them on any street corner in New Orleans or in the fanciest of Garden District homes. In the name of Mardi Gras, you will find revelers at parade parties, Queen’s Suppers, costume parties, formal balls, anywhere people gather and celebrate life will do for a party. Pick the format that suits your party list and then customize the details with New Orleans tradition and history.

    “Whether your flavor of merrymaking is an Avant-garde parade party with multiple feasting stations, a traditional ‘Queen’s Supper’ serving up midnight breakfast fare, or a simple masquerade party featuring various trays of New Orleans’-style desserts, it’s important to start with a clear theme and stick to it,” says Pagel.

    2. Serve Beignets
    Whether a casual celebration or lavish affair, one essential New Orleans ingredient: piping hot beignets.

    “Everyone loves a beignet,” Pagel says. “And it doesn’t get much better than the classic Café du Monde-style beignet. Purists love them in traditional form with powdered sugar and café au lait, but to add a twist on a classic, I ‘sauce them up’ for a more sumptuous and elaborate party.”

    Pagel suggests setting up an “action station” where guests witness the spectacle of forming and frying beignets, then select from a variety of toppings and accoutrements, like warm chocolate or fruit sauces. And, of course, bead-worthy amounts of powdered sugar.

    3. Shake Up a Specialty Cocktail
    Libations can bring your Mardi Gras theme to life. For a classic affair, pull out the old-fashioned glassware and serve the Sazerac, a cognac-based cocktail dating back to 1850s New Orleans. For a truly spirited affair, partake in potions with pyrotechnic effects.

    “Flaming cocktails are Carnival ritual at Atoine’s and Arnaud’s, two of the oldest restaurants in the country, and can be especially dramatic with the lights turned down,” Pagel says. “If you are a seasoned entertainer, try your hand at the popular Café Brûlot, featuring brandy, coffee, a handful of spices and a flaming orange peel. Your guests will never forget it.”

    4. Provide Party Favors
    “You don’t have to be Martha Stewart or have her purse to throw a great Mardi Gras party. All it takes is a great sense of fun, a good guest list and a few inexpensive party favors.” Assures Thea. Balloons and beads abound at Mardi Gras parties, filling a home with Mardi Gras atmosphere without deflating the budget. “Greet guests with colorful strands of bead necklaces, or transform the necklaces into napkin rings to add sparkle to the table,” she says.

    5. Mix the Right Music
    Music sets the tone. Even if a live jazz band isn’t in the cards, you can add sophistication and style by creating your own mix. “New Orleans trumpeter and vocalist Jeremy Davenport will add a sexy touch of sophistication to your party,” Pagel says. “If you want to funk it up and keep the party shaking into the wee hours, download Big Sam’s Funky Nation. Music needs to fit with the mood. A great free option is playing live streaming Mardi Gras music. Create 3 sets: one for the arrival to get people in the mood, another when the energy is peaking and then wind down music before the party ends.”

    New Orleanians understand the magic in having a good time. Be a magician and create the right ambiance for the party. Set up the scene and then, with your guests, laissez les bon temps rouler!

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