It's Samhain. My favorite time of year when and if I had my way I would be in New Orleans completely naked , drinking chicory laced, milky Cafe au Lait out of a antique silver pot and eating beignets dressed with chocolate sauce and powdered sugar, having never moved even a toe from out of an enormous duvet covered bed. That bed would be canopied of course and the sheets would be silky Egyptian cotton and the duvet would be silky and as airy as marshmallows. The pillows would be embroidered and lavish and the curtains would be a deep bottle green velvet. There would be pralines dripping with brown sugar and sass and there would be gardenias in bunches everywhere. There would be a bewitchingly beautiful man with an equally devastating mask waiting for me to finish breakfast so that he could draw my bath, liberally laced with Frederic Malle's Carnal Flower. I know that none of these thoughts will come as any sort of surprise to those who know me well, especially the lusty man that I was smart enough to marry. I cherish food, perfume, magic and passion equally with a fervor that some women reserve solely for diamonds, shoes and pearls. Gift me with truffles, tarot or tuberose on any given day and I will be properly enslaved !
The thing about New Orleans is that she's a completely sensual, captivatingly sexual creature who's literally dripping with the sweet fleshy smell of the morning after a marvelous night with the naughtiest man. The carnal and sardonic vibe of the deep south spells trouble for me with a capital T, but you have to experience it for yourself. You'll never ignore her haunting sirens call although you might hate yourself in the morning for heeding them..remember that I said "might". Those beignets and gardenias blended with a soupçon of bloodlust can produce some very powerful magic. New Orleans produced the incomparably beautiful and tortured Louis Ponte du Lac, Anne Rices first beloved vampire. New Orleans is also the home of some of the finest burlesque in the world. Where else can you take a walk late at night with a Sazerac in your hands and discover just as many beautiful antique stores , strip clubs and tarot readers open all on the same block?
I can never forget the all of the flowers, jasmine vines and dripping wet gardenias in the courtyard outside of Brennans Restaurant, where their pungent aroma mixed with the chicory and cinnamon coffee was about as heady a scent as a woman like me could ever ask for. I still revel in the memory of a sweet and sticky Banana’s Foster dripping with hot caramel and the flowering Jasmine climbing the wrought iron fences. I remember the candlelight and the hauntingly flirtatious laughter from women heard but never seen. The sticky Tuberose that grew everywhere was as stunning as a full moon and as narcotic as an opium den. Then there were all of the women, gorgeous hot house flowers with slickly coral lips , caramel skin and curvaceous bodies that were a promise of something that took me years to understand.
Southern women just astonish me with their ability to entice and enchant. I’ve never met a man who didn’t just love them, even if they love them only in secret , but I’ve met lots of women who absolutely hated them although I’ve never understood why. Not me…..I’ve always wanted to be one of them because they literally smell of orange blossoms, sex and white chocolate. They're the ones who really know how to wear stockings, gloves and hats...and they know how to take them off just as well. Their powers of seduction are legendary and who wouldn’t want some of that? Their magic is alive all year round....They love to have a cup of afternoon tea and I've never met one who couldn't read the tea leaves. But truly? I think that the magic lies in the Beignets and Cafe au Lait!
Here's the best Beignet recipe that I've found yet from none other than Emeril Lagasse!
Beignets and Cafe au Lait
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 1/4 cups warm milk (110 degrees)
1 egg, beaten
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
Oil for frying
Powdered sugar for dusting
5 cups of Chicory Coffee, hot
5 cups whole milk, hot
In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a dough hook, add the yeast, sugar, shortening, and milk, mix for 2 minutes. Add the egg. Mix well. Add 4 cups of the flour and salt. Beat at low speed until all of the flour is incorporated, about 1 minute. Then beat at medium speed until the mixture forms a ball, leaves the sides of the bowl, and climbs up the dough hook. Remove the dough from the bowl. Using your hands, form the dough into a smooth ball. Lightly oil a bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it to oil all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until it doubles in size, about 2 hours.
Preheat the vegetable oil a deep fat fryer to 360 degrees F.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1-inch thick. Lightly dust the surface of the dough. Roll out the rectangle to 12 1/2 inches long by 10 inches wide and about 1/4-inch thick. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into twenty 2 1/2-inch square beignets. Fry the beignets, a couple at a time until golden brown and crispy on all sides, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove and drain on a paper towels. Sprinkle the beignets with powdered sugar and serve. Fill each cup with 1/2 cup of coffee and 1/2 cup of the hot milk. Stir well.
Serve the coffee with the beignets.