third coast

King Cake History

Mardi Gras was first celebrated in the New World in Mobile, AL in 1703.  A half century later residents of the newly established settlement on the Mississippi River called New Orleans wanted to adopt this American style of carnival.  Being neighborly members of Mobile’s Cowbellion de’ Rankin Society ventured west to help out the newcomers.  Le reste appartient à l’histoire.  Today N’Awlins is famous for its Fat Tuesday celebration but other cities along the Third Coast have a century or more a parading under their belts as well like Biloxi, MS, Pensacola, FL and of course Mobile is still home to the oldest Fat Tuesday celebration in the country.

Many uniquely American customs are part of Mardi Gras lore like secret societies, floats and throws.  Also a key element is the legendary King Cake.  The King Cake is the heart of many a Mardi Gras party.

Little more than a Danish decorated with colorful purple, green and gold icing the King Cake has something to separate it from the average paczki, a baby.  Each cake has a tiny plastic baby stashed inside.  The tradition being that whomever gets the piece with the baby is the King of the party.  The tradition, like Fat Tuesday itself, predates Christianity in Europe.  That original Pagan ritual ended with the “winner” being sacrificed.

For the longest time King Cake, in a word, sucked.  It was dry and virtually tasteless but of late Third Coast bakers have begun adding flavor to their King Cakes.  Cream cheese is a popular ingredient now which adds both flavor and moisture.  Fruits and fruit compotes are also en vogue.  Even those with special diets can enjoy King Cake with recipes for sugar-free and gluten-free cakes now in abundance.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

A Brief History of the King Cake

Mardi Gras was first celebrated in the New World in Mobile, AL in 1703.  A half century later residents of the newly established settlement on the Mississippi River called New Orleans wanted to adopt this American style of Carnivàle.  Being neighborly members of Mobile’s Cowbellion de’ Rankin Society ventured west to help out the newcomers.  The rest is history.  Today N’Awlins is famous for its Fat Tuesday celebration but other cities along King CakeAmerica’s Third Coast have a century or more a parading under their belts as well like Biloxi, MS, Pensacola, FL and of course Mobile is still home to the oldest Fat Tuesday celebration in the country.

Many uniquely American customs are part of Mardi Gras lore like secret societies, floats and throws.  Also a key element is the legendary King Cake.  The King Cake is the heart of many a Mardi Gras party.  Little more than a Danish decorated with colorful purple, green and gold sugar or icing the King Cake has something to separate it from the average pastry, a baby.  Each cake has a tiny plastic baby stashed inside.  The tradition being that whoever gets the piece with the baby is the King of the party.  The tradition, like Fat Tuesday itself, predates Christianity in Europe.  King Cake from the amazonThat original Pagan ritual ended with the “winner” being sacrificed.  Thankfully that part of the tradition has fallen to the wayside.

For the longest time King Cake was something to be endured not enjoyed.  It was dry and virtually tasteless but of late Gulf Coast bakers have begun adding flavor to their King Cakes.  Cream cheese is a very popular ingredient these days which provides both flavor and moisture.  Fruits and fruit compotes are also en vogue.  Even those with special diets can enjoy King Cake with recipes for sugar-free and gluten-free cakes now in abundance.

With Mardi Gras just around the corner I urge you to seek out a King Cake from your local baker or order one from the amazon HERE.  Try your hand at one of the great American traditions.  Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Third Coast Cuisine Nominated for Gourmand Award

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

“THIRD COAST CUISINE” NOMINATED FOR INTERNATIONAL COOKBOOK AWARD

Madrid, Spain – Award winning food writer and chef Stuart Reb Donald has once again opened his culinary bag of tricks for his latest cookbook Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes from the Gulf of Mexico and the critics have taken notice.

Third Coast Cuisine Nominated for Gourmand AwardThird Coast Cuisine is one of just four American cookbooks nominated for the charity category in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.  Donald’s latest cookbook will face off with books from over 20 different countries.  On the whole some 144 countries will participate in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards held March 3-6, 2011 where there will be a major exhibition of the nominated works at the Festival du Livre de Cuisine (aka Paris Cookbook Fair).

According to the author, “The Third Coast is an area of amazing diversity. From the Yucatan to the Keys you can find any number of indigenous and immigrant cooking styles like Mexican, Cajun, Native American and even Soul Food.” The Third Coast is a popular nickname for the states along the Gulf of Mexico as well as parts of Mexico and Cuba.

“This honor is humbling.  When I first started work on “Third Coast” it was a project of passion, something to celebrate the unique food and culture found on America’s Gulf Coast.  Then the Deepwater Horizon tragedy came along and I began to think that my little cookbook had just turned into a history text, a requiem.  The lifestyle that inspired my book is still in jeopardy.”  Donald’s book contains 150 recipes, 11 essays and 70 color photos of the diverse foods to be found along the Gulf of Mexico.  He is donating a portion of the profits to the Gulf Restoration Network.

About Stuart Reb Donald
A 24 year veteran of the restaurant industry, Stuart Reb Donald has worked every position from dish washer up to chef.  In 2003 he combined his love of food and gift for writing to produce his first cookbook Amigeauxs – Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine (4 Star Publishing). He has written hundreds of articles including interviews of noted chefs like Bobby Flay, Ted Allen, Michael Symon, Tory McPhail and Susan Irby.  He has been a regular guest on TV shows along the Gulf Coast and often uses his culinary skills for good by helping to raise money for organizations like the American Cancer Society and the Bay Area Food Bank.

Contact the author.

About the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards
The Gourmand World Cookbook Awards were founded in 1995 by Edouard Cointreau. Every year, they honor the best food and wine books.  The objectives of the Awards are to reward and honor those who “cook with words,” help readers find the best out of the 26,000 food and wine books produced every year and to help book retailers find the 50 food and wine books that each year should be offered to clients. The Gourmand World Cookbook Awards are the only truly international competition. There are many local or national awards for food and wine books, with many different categories.  In order to fully represent the diversity of food and drink publishing around the world, Gourmand World Cookbook Awards have 41 categories for cookbooks and 18 for drinks books.

For more information contact:
Edouard Cointreau
Gourmand International
Pintor Rosales 50, 4°C
Madrid, 28008
Phone: +34-91- 541 67 68
Fax: +34-91- 541 68 21
E-Mail: pilar@gourmandbooks.com

About The Paris Cookbook Fair
The Paris Cookbook Fair is the world’s largest fair devoted to cookbooks and wine books.

Based on a huge network of publishers from over 50 countries, the fair is balanced between trade and pleasure. Publishers, authors, photographers, stylists, printers, distributors, booksellers negotiate projects. At the same time, books are promoted with constant cooking demos by the greatest celebrity chefs, and wine tastings at the international bar.

For more information contact:
Gourmand International
Paseo Pintor Rosales, 50
28008 – Madrid
SPAIN

Phone: +34 91 541 67 68
Fax: +34 541 68 21
icr@virtualsw.es
www.cookbookfair.com
www.pariscookbookfestival.typepad.com

Celebrating the Gulf Through It’s Food

I was lucky enough to be selected by Foodbuzz to participate in the July 24X24 which is a fund raiser for Gulf recovery.  For those not familiar with 24X24 it is a monthly global dinner party featuring 24 meals by 24 bloggers in 24 hours.  This month’s party hasn’t gone unnoticed as the major news wires have picked up on it.  MSNBC said, “Foodbuzz, the largest online food community, is calling on food bloggers across the country to cook up a Gulf Coast-inspired meal on July 24th — and blog about it — all in support of the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF).”  So I gathered a few friends together, most Gulf Coast natives, and we celebrated by eating the foods we’ve all come to love.

This has special importance to me because I live in South Alabama right on the Gulf of Mexico and I have seen first hand the economic devastation in the area.  Just a few months back I took in the annual Blessing of the Fleet in Bayou La Batre and it was evident to the people in that small fishing village that life would never be the same again.  Recently I released a new cookbook, Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico and it is from that work that I draw the recipes for tonight’s menu: filé gumbo, Cuban pressed sandwiches and Key lime tartelettes.

Gumbo is as continuous an argument around these parts as politics, money or religion but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the one thing that cannot be omitted from gumbo is okra.  The word gumbo is an African for okra.  It is a dish that has been adopted by the people of the Gulf Coast as our official soup.  There are some people who just can’t handle okra so I am stealing an idea from Chef Bobby Flay and using fried okra as a garnish so it remains an official gumbo.

File’ Gumbo

  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 lb shrimp
  • 1 lb crab meat
  • 1 pint oysters
  • 1 med onion, diced
  • 1 bunch celery stalks, rough chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 lb okra (optional), sliced
  • 1/2 bottle Louisiana Hot Sauce- a whole bottle if you like it HOT!
  • 4 tablespoons flour4 tablespoons butter
  • Salt, cayenne pepper, File’, white pepper, & black pepper to taste
  • Bay leaves
  • 1 quart fish stock or shrimp stock

Boil rice in plain water and set aside. In a large stockpot melt butter and add flour to make a roux cook until chocolate brown, roughly 20 minutes. Add onions, celery, bell peppers, and a little water if needed and simmer a few minutes then add hot sauce, tomatoes, bay leaves, salt, both peppers and fish stock. Simmer for about half an hour. Add okra (if using) and seafood and simmer about another twenty minutes. Remove bay leaves. Serve hot over rice, and garnish with a sprinkle of file’ and fried okra.

The influence of our Latin American neighbors can be seen all over the Gulf of Mexico, especially in Texas and Florida and it is in the latter that our next course has become an institution.  And no wonder with two kinds of pork.

Cuban Pressed Sandwich

  • 4 loaves French bread
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 pound smoked ham, sliced thin
  • 1 – 1½ pounds slow roasted pork
  • 1/2 pound Swiss cheese, sliced
  • Hamburger dills
  • Mustard

Finally my dessert also hails from the Sunshine State.  I am including my recipe for Key lime pie although for the dinner I poured my custard into graham cracker tartelettes rather than a single large crust.  Despite the name, Key limes are no longer grown commercially in the Florida Keys, you can thank the hurricane of 1935 for that.  Today most Key limes come from an area of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico that has identical soil and climate to the Keys where this small lime is indigenous thus making it a true Gulf of Mexico delicacy.  You can make this same pie using regular limes but don’t call it a Key lime pie because there is a noticeable difference in flavor.

Key Lime Pie

  • 1¼ cups graham crackers, crushed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed Key lime juice (roughly 12 limes)
  • Whipped cream
  • Dash of fresh grated nutmeg
  • 3 – 4 Key limes

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In medium bowl, mix together sugar and graham cracker crumbs. Melt the butter and blend well with sugar and graham crackers. Press into a 9-inch pie pan. Bake 6 to 8 minutes. In another medium bowl, combine the milk and egg yolks with an electric mixer on low speed. Add key the lime juice. Mix until thick. Pour into prepared crust and put in refrigerator overnight. Top with whipped cream, nutmeg and garnish with key lime slices (optional).

NOTE: Real Key Lime Pie is never green.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up

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