December 2

Beignets For Breakfast Day

Beignets. Fried Biscuits. Baker. Colcannon. Buttermilk. Eclairs.

Days Until

Christmas 23.New Year's Eve: 30.

Today's Flavor

It's Beignets For Breakfast Day. "Beignet" is French for any kind of battered, fried finger food. But here in New Orleans it connotes the square, plump doughnut fried by the zillions in the French Market-style coffeehouses around town. They're eaten by threes with cafe au lait, made with dense chicory coffee and hot milk. Their importance as a local culinary icon was best illustrated when the Cafe du Monde reopened for business seven weeks after Hurricane Katrina. That story made all the national news outlets.[caption id="attachment_37167" align="alignnone" width="399"]Beignets with three sauces. Beignets with three sauces.[/caption]Although most beignets are consumed late at night, after an evening spent in other entertainments, they are delightful for breakfast. The coffeehouses aren't nearly as crowded, the service isn't as rushed, and the feeling is to linger and watch the French Quarter come to life.Like many dishes that have remained unchanged for over a century, beignets are intrinsically not that big a deal. Eating all three that come in an order is not a good idea (unless, of course, you're a male in his late teens or early twenties, in which case--whoops! too late! they're already gone), because that last one will bloat and leave you with a bad feeling about beignets. And you don't want that.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Although you can make beignets from scratch using the Cafe du Monde's mix or a recipe, good beignets can be made much easier. Just buy a can of the cheapest biscuit dough in the refrigerator case. Pop it open, cut the biscuits into halves or even quarters (you can also punch a hole in the center and stretch them into traditional doughnuts), then fry them in clean 375-degree oil until they brown a little darker than your instincts tell you. Drain them on paper towels, dust them with powdered sugar, and you have beignets at least eighty-five percent as good as those at the coffee stand.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Baker, California is on the northwestern edge of the Mojave National Preserve, a place so hot and dry in the summer that it suggests the possibility of baking in the open sun. The 916 people who live there are proud of that, and have erected what they say is the world's highest thermometer. It went up to 125 in 2007. Baker is not only hot but desolate, with mountains separated by desert in all directions. It was founded in 1908 as a stop on the old Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad, whose route is now I-15. The turnoff to Death Valley is in the town, in case Baker isn't hot enough for you. The place to eat in Baker--according to Guy Fieri's show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives--is the Mad Greek Diner.

Edible Dictionary

colcannon, n., Irish--A hearty hot dish made of cabbage, leeks, mashed potatoes, butter, salt and pepper, and served throughout the year as a vegetable side in traditional Irish homes and restaurants. Sometimes other vegetables or even meats are added to it. Ham, carrots, onions, and bacon are some of these. Every housewife has her own version. Colcannon has been compared with British and Welsh dishes, but the Irish claim it as their own.

Deft Dining Rule #918:

Never take a bite from a beignet if there's a possibility that one of the people you're with is about to say something funny.

Physiology Of Eating

This would have fit better yesterday, when it was National Liver And Onions Day. George Minot--born today in 1885--shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine in 1934, for developing an extract from liver to treat pernicious anemia. Later, it was found that the active ingredient was Vitamin B-12, which is what we now use. Myself, I'd prefer the veal liver Lyonnaise with bacon and onions at Clancy's, with a side order of grits.

Music To Eat Biscuits By

Ole Buttermilk Sky, by the Kay Kyser Orchestra, with vocals by Mike Douglas (who would later become a talk show host), was a Number One hit today in 1946. A buttermilk sky is like a mackerel sky, covered with bigger, rounder little clouds.

Food Namesakes

Britney Spears, from Kentwood, Louisiana, was born today in 1981. I wonder if she even likes asparagus. . . Chris Wedge, the animator who did Ice Age and other movies, animated himself for the first time today in 1968. I wonder if he likes blue cheese.

Words To Eat By

"They found that the eclair contains everything my system lacks. So I take three a day and I feel like a new woman."--Ruth Draper, British humorist and speaker, born today in 1884.

Words To Drink By

"Beer is not a good cocktail party drink, especially in a home where you don't know where the bathroom is."--Billy Carter.