One day, I decided I was making beignets. Never did it before. But Willie and I've eaten our fair share of beignets at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans and we haven't been there together for a number of years. I miss it.
The decision to make beignets coincided with a flurry of cooking and amazing photographs being posted in the 37 Cooks Kitchen. That's what we call our facebook discussion group where all of the 37 cooks hang out. Can you imagine? Hanging out in that kitchen? Well, if you ever do hang out with us in our virtual kitchen, I guarantee you two things: 1) you'd be hungry and 2) you'd be inspired.
I decided I would split my beignet dough and make half the traditional way, the way I love them. And I'd make half a new way, a savory beignet that I now love too. You might want to make them and see if you love them. Bet you will.
Grilled Jalapeno Sausage and Onion Beignets with Chile Con Queso and Avocado Cream
by Sandra Simmons
Beignet recipe adapted from The All-New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook
cooking thermometer, I used my candy thermometer
a heavy pot or Dutch oven
1 packet yeast
3 tablespoons water (between 100-110 degrees)
3/4 cup milk
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup Crisco
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cups flour + 1 cup flour for kneading, et cetera
1 cup Teet's Smoked Jalapeno Pork Sausage, grilled and roughly chopped, cooled to room temperature
1/2 onion, chopped and then grilled or roasted, cooled to room temperature
peanut oil or vegetable oil
chile con queso
Empty the yeast packet into a large bowl. You can use tap water but measure it and make sure you get it in the right temperature range. Add the water to the yeast and stir. Let it sit for 5 minutes.
Put the milk in a saucepan and heat it over medium-low to low heat until it is steaming but not boiling. Add the sugar, Crisco, and salt. Turn off the heat and stir until the Crisco is dissolved. Then let the mixture cool until it's between 100-110 degrees.
Add the egg, saucepan contents, two cups flour, onions, and sausage to the yeast and stir it until it's combined. Take some of the additional cup of flour and put it on your counter or Silpat and spread it around. Put the dough on the floured surface and knead with all or most of the additional flour for about eight minutes (I set my timer.)
Get a clean bowl and put a little vegetable oil in it. Place the dough in the bowl and then turn it over until the dough is oiled on all sides. Cover the bowl with a towel and place it in a draft-free, warm area, around 85 degrees, for one hour. In the summer, this is not a problem. The rest of the year, I preheat my oven to 200 and then I turn the oven off and leave the oven door open slightly while I make the dough. When it's time for me to put my dough aside to rise, the oven if the perfect temperature.
After the dough rises for an hour, punch down the dough and place it on a floured surface. With your rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangular shape of about 10 inches by 12 inches. Now, it doesn't have to be perfect. Beignets that aren't a perfect shape taste just as great! Cut the dough into squares of about 2 inches, or close to it. Leave the squares on your floured surface and cover them with a towel in a draft-free place for about 30 minutes, maybe a little more, until they have doubled in size.
Pour two to three inches of peanut or vegetable oil in your Dutch oven and heat the oil to about 370 degrees. Gentle and quickly put four pieces of dough in the oil with a spatula. Don't drop the dough in! You could cause a splatter! Cook the dough on each side until golden brown, between 30 seconds and 1 minute. Take the beignets out of the hot oil when done and place them on paper towels to drain. Serve with chile con queso and avocado cream.
Chile con Queso:
This is a Tex-Mex staple. If you have a favorite recipe for it, or for cheese dip (as it's called in most of the country), please feel free to use your own recipe.
American cheese, diced or shredded
Rotel, up to one can depending on the amount of American cheese you use
enough beer or wine to get it to the right consistency (you can use cream or sour cream if you prefer)
I realize this is a terrible recipe. But this is how we make it. We just add some American cheese (NOT Velveeta!) to a small saucepan and turn it on medium-low to low, depending on your stove, and let it melt. We add a little Rotel. We add a little beer or wine. Or cream. Or sour cream. When it melts and it tastes right, it's done!
1 avocado, pitted and peeled
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 lemon or lime, juiced
cilantro, chopped (optional)
Combine the first three ingredients in a food processor until smooth. As you see in my photo, a smeared the avocado cream on a plate and then sprinkled it with a little cayenne pepper before placing the beignets on the plate and drizzling chile con queso on top. You can serve this dish however you wish! You might consider making the beignets bite-sized and serving the sauces in small bowls as dipping sauces. Use your imagination. You really can't go wrong.