There’s a recipe here, I promise…but first a story about dining out gluten-free.
I wrote recently about the difficulties I experienced eating gluten-free and vegetarian at Walt Disney World. For the past couple of weeks, I have approached eating out with a heightened sense of concern, worried that I would get glutened or simply not be able to eat. I love sharing a meal with friends, but dislike how difficult it can sometimes be.
To celebrate Fat Tuesday, I planned to have dinner out with friends. A restaurant that was serving a buffet for dinner was suggested, Fat Fish Blue. Yikes–a buffet, the scariest place for me to eat gluten-free. I sent a message via Twitter to the restaurant and got an almost immediate reply, ask for Chef JR when I arrived, something would be available for me. This was looking like a good experience already!
Still untrusting of this situation but hopeful, I met my friends and let the super friendly server know of my dining restrictions. She said, “No problem! Let me talk with JR and I’ll be right back.” She did come right back and told me the Chef would be coming out to speak with me. Seriously? Fingers crossed, this sounded promising!
On what was surely one of the busiest nights of the year for a Cajun restaurant, Chef JR Grady made his way out of the kitchen and sat down to talk with my entire party, asking if everyone wanted to be served gluten-free or if it was just one of us (everyone else was fine with the buffet), then asked what he could prepare for me. This situation was almost hard for me to believe, a chef going to the trouble to make sure I had a meal. Wow. When we planned this night out, I expected to have a few cocktails while my friends enjoyed dinner. This was such an amazing surprise.
Beans and rice was perfect for me, as long as they weren’t cross-contaminated. That’s when Chef told me his wife is vegan (so he really understood my needs on the vegetarian end) and he also understood my gluten concerns. He said he would gladly prepare a meal for me, including beans and rice. After my recent dining experiences, this was unbelievable. And so appreciated. The Chef conversed with the other members of my party about sourcing seafood and the alligator that was smoking on the grill, a line of chatter interesting even to this vegetarian. He is an incredibly knowledgeable guy and very entertaining. We were obviously in good hands for a delicious dinner we could all enjoy!
While my friends checked out the buffet, JR delivered a beautiful starter to the table, sweet potato chips fried safely for me, topped with caramelized onions and a balsamic reduction. Simple and divine. A bit later, an enormous bowl of beans and rice made especially for me arrived. It was a spicy meal, safely prepared and timed perfectly so I was enjoying dinner at the same time as my friends. While I don’t expect this type of service at every restaurant (nor do I think it is feasible at many restaurants), it helped immensely to erase my recent bad dining experiences. What a great reminder that it is possible to dine out as a gluten-free vegetarian! We had a terrific time celebrating Fat Tuesday, everyone’s food was superb, we listened to a couple of great bands and were entertained by jugglers, fire eaters, a stiltwalker and one of my favorite magicians, who, in the blink of an eye, did this to my fork AND stole my watch:
It was a truly enjoyable evening with great food and entertainment. I’ve added another restaurant to my once-again-growing list of places I can eat. Go check this place out!
As promised, there’s a recipe to go along with this tale. It’s none other than King Cake, the traditional Mardi Gras treat. While not one of my prettiest creations, I was assured King Cake does not have to be particularly attractive. I hope that is true. I can only recall eating it once years ago and it was like having a dried out cinnamon roll with lots of sugar on top. Mine was a bit more moist and I really liked the addition of quince to the filling.
Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free King Cake with Quince Filling
7″ Angel Food Cake Pan or other small tube pan, alternately a deep dish pie pan with a juice glass in the middle will work.
1 1/4 oz. pkg. dry yeast (not Rapid Rise)
1/4 cup warm water (120 degrees approximately)
1 t. granulated sugar
4 oz. Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
1/4 c. quince paste
1/4 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. pecan pieces
1 c. powdered sugar, sifted
2 T. Meyer lemon or orange juice
1 t. vanilla bean paste
Purple, green and yellow sanding sugar (You can make your own with regular sugar and food coloring)
Plastic Baby (I found mine in the baby shower favors at my local party store)
Starting with the cake:
Mix yeast packet with 1/4 cup warm water and 1 t. sugar. Set aside for at least 10 minutes to activate yeast.
In bowl of stand mixer, add 1/4 cup sugar, Coconut Milk and Earth Balance. Cream together until fluffy, about 5 minutes on medium. Slowly incorporate eggs. Mix in dry ingredients, reserving 1/2 cup of flour. This will not be as dough-y as a gluten-rich bread dough, it will instead be a bit stickier. If it is too sticky, slowly add in the remaining 1/2 cup of flour blend until you reach a texture that can be moved from the mixing bowl to a bowl in which the dough can rise. (This is tough to do if your dough is overly sticky. It’s even tougher to explain the texture you need to achieve in this recipe. It’s not as firm as regular bread dough, but not as sticky as a batter either.)
Move dough to a lightly oiled bowl. Flip a couple of times so oil is on all sides of the dough. Cover with a dish towel and place in a warm, draft-free spot in your kitchen to rise for 2 hours.
While dough is rising, mix the Better Than Cream Cheese and Quince paste. A small mixing bowl and a large spoon will do, no mixer required.
Oil and flour the pan you have chosen for the cake. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
After dough has risen, doubling in size, turn it out onto parchment paper. Cover the top of the dough with plastic wrap. Roll out to an 18″ x 24″ rectangle. Gently spread filling mixture on top and sprinkle with pecans. Roll from the short side, as for cinnamon rolls. Finish with the seam side down. Gently lift the dough into the pan, softly pressing together where the ends meet.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. The top will be slightly browned and crusty. Mine turned out a bit lumpy-bumpy, but filled the house with the delicious smell of baking bread and had a nice texture when sliced, so I’ll take the lumps.
While the cake cools, mix the frosting. Once cake has cooled, carefully remove and place on serving plate. I used a 9″ square plate for mine. Drizzle with frosting and immediately sprinkle with sugar. I stuck the baby into the cake from the underside.
I would suggest serving this cake the day it is baked. It was delicious on Mardi Gras, a bit dried out on Ash Wednesday. Enjoy!