Years ago, as a young wife, I left Texas and most everyone I knew to move to the small Louisiana oil town of Morgan City. To me, Morgan City was absolutely in the middle of nowhere. It was most decidedly not “in the middle of everything” as the Chamber of Commerce liked to advertise, touting it’s location” approximately 70 miles west of New Orleans, 60 miles south of Baton Rouge and 60 miles east of Lafayette on scenic Highway 90“. But I fell in love with our adorable little blue Victorian home, the huge live oaks dripping with moss, and the Atchafalaya River in my backyard. Literally. In my backyard. Along with the requisite alligators, which is another story for another time.
Less than two weeks after the big move I discovered I was expecting my first child (surprise!) and just 15 months after welcoming my first son, I was once again racing the “60 miles up scenic Highway 90” to Lafayette to give birth to my second son (Whew!) So, (as new parents everywhere will understand) I was just a bit busy for the first 2 or 3 years after being dropped smack dab in deep, deep Cajun Country.
Childbirth, especially twice in 15 months, and then the subsequent craziness of caring for 2 little boys, quite possibly fried a large majority of my brain cells. Yes, I’m pretty sure I was smarter once upon a time, but I wouldn’t trade that lost gray matter for anything in the world.
Although a lot of my time in Louisiana was lost in a blur of baby love and diapers and cleaning and painful Lego foot injuries, there are two things that are forever stored in my memory about that time and place:
- The Cajun dialect. That accent. The pure joy I got from hearing my authentically Cajun neighbors talk. Still, to this day, if I hear a Cajun accent in a store, a mall, a football stadium, a bathroom!, I’ll stop and beg the person to talk to me. It’s probably a bit scary for the other person, but still, it’s absolute heaven for me.
- The FOOD. Oh my gosh, the food. Things I had never even heard of, much less tasted before I got there, became the food of my soul. Gumbo, jambalaya, etouffee, the po-boys! I could go on and on.
It was at the famous Cafe du Monde in New Orleans where I first tasted a beignet, and it was, as popularly advertised, insanely good. Practically transcendental. The fact that I came perilously close to death from aspirating powdered sugar, fades in comparison to the delight of the unforgettable first bite of that sugar-coated billowy nugget of fried dough.
While technically not Cajun, “beignet” is a french term for simple fried pastry. The origins of this tasty sweet can be traced back to ancient Rome, and it has evolved into various forms.
I’ve enjoyed a lot of beignets since that first trip to Cafe du Monde, some maybe even tastier than that first one (it’s hard to tell when you’re swooning), and they remain one of my favorite sweet indulgences.
So occasionally, when you’ve been betrayed by your oven, yet you’re craving something sweet and bread-y for breakfast, and a trip to New Orleans seems like a lot of trouble (I mean I’d have to change out of my pj’s and all, maybe brush my teeth…), and the time required to make an authentic yeast-risen beignet seems like an eternity, then you make a faux version of your favorite using puff pastry.
It couldn’t be smpler.
Here’s how you do it.
Puff Pastry Beignets
One sheet puff pastry
about 3-4 cups vegetable or canola oil
Here’s all it takes, really.
1.Heat about 3-4 cups of oil (vegetable or canola) over med-high heat.
2. Remove a puff pastry sheet from the freezer. Let it thaw long enough that you can easily unfold the sheet. Cut it into approximately 12 squares.
3. While the dough is still pretty cold drop a few at a time in the hot oil and fry (turning to make sure it cooks evenly) until golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
**Friendly warning- if you let the dough get too warm before frying, all kinds of weird things will happen- the layers of the pastry literally fall apart and make a mess. Ditto if your oil is not hot enough!