The Frugal Foodie: Brant Tesky and David Guas

Whooping it up for Mardi Gras doesn’t have to mean a parade of bills. Acadiana’s Brant Tesky and pastry chef David Guas show us how to revel in the fun on a budget.

It’s easy eating well in the Big Easy—or so Acadiana chef Brant Tesky and pastry chef David Guas of Damgoodsweet Consulting Group make it seem. For this Mardi Gras edition of the Frugal Foodie, we challenged the duo to make a traditional Queen’s Supper for six for less than $25.

Throughout the Mardi Gras season, which starts 12 days after Christmas and ends on Fat Tuesday, New Orleans is a carnival of parades, balls and dinners. A popular dinner is the Queen’s Supper, a midnight breakfast served after a ball with traditional dishes such as grits and grillades, king cake, and milk punch.

At the grocery store, we start at the meat counter. Grillades are inexpensive cuts of meat that are browned and slow-cooked in a roux-based tomato gravy. Tesky scans his options and lands on short ribs. He picks up a carton of beef broth and a can of diced tomatoes. Next he grabs celery, carrots, and onions, which will be diced to make a mirepoix, a mixture used in many traditional French stews. Guas calculates that making a simple, “cheater” version of king cake will be cheaper than baking one from scratch. He grabs a package of Pillsbury cinnamon buns and food coloring. I still have two-thirds of a package of grits from Vidalia chef R.J. Cooper’s inaugural-themed feast. so I include that as a pantry item and we escape the grocery store at $25.14.

In the kitchen, Tesky seasons and browns the meat while Guas plays sous chef, dicing the carrots, celery, and onion. When the meat is browned, Tesky sautés the mirepoix, returns the meat to the pan, and adds the beef broth. While Tesky starts on the grits, Guas colors some granulated sugar, turning it purple, green, and gold—traditional Mardi Gras colors representing justice, faith and power. Guas assembles the cinnamon buns into a ring and pops them into the oven.

The two are constantly working—chopping, browning, stirring—but theirs isn’t the whirling-dervish activity that so often possesses the kitchen when chefs take on the Frugal Foodie challenge. It’s calm and laid-back. And fast. The whole meal takes less than two hours, including shopping. Which only leaves more time for revelry.

All recipes serve six.

Grits and Grillades

1 carrot, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
6 short ribs
1 32 ounce container of beef broth
1 14 ½ ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil as needed
1½ cups uncooked grits
3 cups milk
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon butter

Generously season the meat with salt and pepper. Add just enough oil to a saucepan to lightly cover the bottom. Over high heat, sear each side until brown—about 1 to 2 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of the meat.

Remove the ribs from the pan and set aside. In the same pan, add the carrot, celery, and half of the onion. Sauté until soft. Add the ribs back into the pan. Add a bay leaf, the juice from the can of tomatoes (not the tomatoes) and enough beef broth to almost cover the meat. Simmer over low heat for at least an hour but preferably for several hours. A half hour before serving, remove the bay leaf and add the tomatoes.

In a separate pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the jalapeño and the other half of the onion. Season to taste with salt and pepper. When the onion is soft, add 3 cups milk, 2 cups water, and 1½ cups grits. Stir and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. If you prefer a more puddinglike consistency, stir and cook up to 20 minutes. Do not allow grits to boil.

Serve with the short ribs.


King Cake

1 package Pillsbury cinnamon buns
¾ cup granulated sugar
Red, green, blue, and yellow food coloring

Remove the cinnamon buns their package. On a baking sheet, arrange the buns in the shape of a ring, with the buns slightly overlapping one another. Bake according to the package’s directions.

While the buns are baking, place ¼ cup of sugar each into three plastic bags. In one bag, add 3 drops of green food coloring and shake. Set aside. In the second bag, add 3 drops of yellow food coloring and shake. Set aside. In the third bag, add 3 drops of red and 3 drops of blue food coloring and shake. Set aside.

Let cake cool, then decorate with the colored sugar, alternating lines of green, purple, and yellow.


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