Here in Richmond, we’re lucky to have been spared the worst of Hurricane Florence. Earlier in the week, Florence’s path was supposed to curve up through central Virginia, so Richmonders did the mad dash to clear water and bread off of grocery store shelves, buy every generator available, and stock up on candles. I was getting gas on Tuesday and pseudo-patiently waited in line for about 15 minutes, since everyone else was getting gas too, only to pull forward when it was finally my turn and immediately get cut off by an elderly woman who laughed at me as she flipped me the bird. So that was ridiculous. But luckily for us and not so luckily for the Carolinas, Florence stayed south, so we’re just getting some drawn out gray days with a little more breeze than normal and on & off rain through the weekend.
Since it’s not really nice enough outside to do much of anything, but it’s certainly safe to travel in this area, we’re having a New Orleans style feast at Ally’s aunt and uncle’s house. Aunt Lori is making gumbo and cornbread, so we decided to make an appetizer that matched her theme. I think we all (sub-consciously or not), associate New Orleans with hurricanes since Katrina, so there’s that too I guess. Ally loves Emeril, so of course we turned to him for our appetizer inspiration. Crawfish beignets are a classic New Orleans festival treat, so we went with that – adapting our recipe from Emeril’s recipe for crawfish beignets, substituting shrimp for the crawfish, plus a few other little tweaks. Ours are a little spicier than Emeril’s too! If you were in New Orleans, you’d probably have these with remoulade on the side, but we decided to whip up a Lemon Aioli. Our Super Garlic Aioli would probably be delicious too!
As we were making and eating these, the question came up… Why are these beignets? A couple people remarked that they reminded them of the conch fritters you get in the Caribbean. So why aren’t these ‘fritters’? I googled it and literally the first line of the Wikipedia page on beignets says, “Beignet, synonymous with the English ‘fritter’…” So there we have it! These are beignets because they’re from French-Creole New Orleans!
Stay safe Carolina friends – we love you 🖤🖤🖤
- 2 tsp neutral oil
- 1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 10 oz fresh shrimp, coarsely chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- 8 turns fresh ground black pepper
- ~3/4 cup green onions, finely chopped (white & light green parts)
- 3 eggs
- 2 1/4 cups flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 2 tsp cayenne
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- Vegetable or peanut oil, for frying
- Heat the 2 tsp of oil over medium heat in a medium sized pan. Once hot, add the garlic and bell pepper. Cook for 3-4 minutes until softened a bit.
- Now add the chopped shrimp and season the pan with the salt and pepper. Cook for another 2-4 minutes with the lid on until shrimp have lost their translucency. Remove from heat.
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs together. Stir all of the remaining ingredients, except for the flour (and the ‘oil for frying,’ obviously), and the shrimp mixture into that bowl. Add the flour last, stirring as you go. Add the last 1/4 cup slowly, stopping if your mixture gets too thick.
- If you have deep fryer, whip that out, otherwise fill a tall-sided pot no more that 1/3 full with oil. Heat to 365 degrees.
- Once oil is hot, drop dough by spoonfuls into the oil. Do this in batches – don’t over-crowd the pot! Fry for ~3 minutes until golden and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon to a wire rack or a paper towel lined dish. (Try to maintain the temperature of the oil – if it’s too hot the outside will crisp (burn) very quickly and the inside will remain raw.)
- When cool enough to handle, enjoy!
Makes ~ 2-3 dozen depending on size
If there’s any dish that just screams ‘Hanukkah,’ it’s potato latkes. Latkes are traditional Hanukkah fare not for the dish itself, but for the oil its fried in. Hanukkah is known as the Festival of Lights; it celebrates the miracle of one day’s worth of oil lasting for eight days. Over 2000 years ago, the city of Jerusalem was under Syrian-Greek control. Specifically, the king Antiochus IV Epiphanes reversed the rule of his father in allowing Jews to practice their religion and began persecuting the Jewish people. Their religion was banned, they were ordered to worship traditional Greek gods, many were massacred, and the Temple in Jerusalem was desecrated. A Jewish rebellion broke out, led by the Maccabees, which eventually drove the Syrian-Greeks out of Jerusalem. Once this occurred, the Jews set about cleaning and restoring the Temple. Once the Temple was rededicated, there was only a small amount of oil, enough that would keep the menorah lit for one day. The flame was supposed to stay lit continuously, but no one knew how the oil would last. The miracle was that the oil lasted for eight days, until the supply could be replenished. Jewish sages of the time proclaimed this miracle and thus created the holiday of Hanukkah – the Festival of Lights!
For this recipe, I used Tori Avey’s recipe and tips & tricks to try to make this the best batch possible. The goal is to have a crispy exterior with a warm and soft interior. Traditionally, you would top your Hanukkah latkes with applesauce or sour cream, but since we ate our with the delicious Wine & Honey Brisket that had plenty of pan sauce in which to dip the latkes if needed!
- 2 medium Russet potatoes (~1lb)
- 1 small onion
- 1/2 cup matzo meal/crushed matzo crackers
- 2 egg, whisked
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Few turns of fresh ground black pepper
- Peel and then grate the potatoes. Submerge the potato shreds in cold water while working.
- Quarter the onion and then run it through a food processor.
- Drain the potato shreds through a doubled cheesecloth.
- Add the onion to the potato in the cheesecloth. Squeeze as much of the liquid out as possible.
- Combine the potato and onion with the matzo meal, the egg, salt, and pepper.
- Pour enough oil into your pan to form a layer ~1/8th inch thick. Goal temperature for frying = 360-375 degrees – you can check with a candy thermometer if you have one.
- Form a small patty with your hands, roughly 3 tbsp worth. Test this first one to make sure your oil is a good temperature. Should be 2-3 minutes per side, yielding crispy brown edges with a soft interior.
- Set the latkes on a wire rack to cool, with paper towels underneath. Serve while still warm.
Makes 8-10 latkes
Zucchini season may be over, but we can usually find decent looking ones in the fall around here. Sorry for not eating exactly seasonally, but you know what is perfectly fall-appropriate? A big bowl of soup! And what perfectly accompanies a nice big bowl of soup? Zucchini fritters. So in a roundabout way, zucchini fritters = fall food? Ok, maybe not, but we enjoyed them tonight anyway.
It’s easy to think of zucchini as a boring vegetable, zoodles excluded. (All the cool kids eat zoodles now ok? Including us – see “Chicken Lo Mein” Zoodles, Zoodles with Roasted Chickpeas, Caliente Chicken & Zoodles, French Onion Chicken Zoodles, & Mediterranean Cucumber-Zoodle Salad) They get mushy when you bake or sautee them too long, and no one likes mushy vegetables. Fritters are a lot easier to make than you think. Start to finish, less than 30 minutes, and you end up with a delicious side dish to any main course – we chose soup, but these would go great with roasted chicken or turkey. Try changing up the spices and herbs and see what you like best. This combo – onion, garlic, paprika, chili powder – isn’t spicy or overwhelming, but makes for a great dish with nice flavor.
Note: They way we made these, they’re browned and slightly crispy on the outside, but remain soft on the inside and a bit fragile. That’s because we wanted these to stay vegetable-heavy and to save a few calories. If you’d like a less fragile fritter, use more flour and/or bread crumbs and an additional egg to bind the mixture together more tightly.
- 2 medium zucchini
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 tsp granulated garlic
- 1 tsp granulated onion
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar
- Salt & pepper
- 3 tbsp neutral oil
- Grate the zucchinis into a large bowl.
- Sprinkle with salt and allow to sit for 10+ minutes.
- Squeeze water out from the zucchini (you’ll be amazed at how much water you can get rid of!)
- Whisk up the egg and stir that in with the zucchini, along with all of the rest of the ingredients (using just a pinch of additional salt and a few grinds of black pepper), except for the oil.
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
- Once oil is hot, form balls of the zucchini mixture in your hands, slightly smaller than the palm of your hand. Smush them into patties and drop into the hot oil.
- Fry on each side for 2-3 minutes until browned on both sides.
- Remove from pan to a paper-towel lined dish before serving to soak up a bit of the excess oil.
Makes 6 fritters