The Celluloid Pantry: Beignets and Mon Oncle (France, 1958)

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The subtitles call them crullers, but they’re known by many names: beavertails in Canada, churros in Mexico, zepoles in Italy, and malasadas in Hawaii. Every cuisine seems to have its own version of this classic street food of fried dough served hot, with a light dusting of sugar.

In Mon Oncle (1958), Monsieur Hulot’s (Jacques Tati, far right) young nephew, Gerald (Alain Becourt) lives in an absurdly modern home, where his mother prepares meals in an all-white kitchen replete with robotic fixtures.

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But on an after-dinner trip to his uncle’s side of town, Gerald gets a taste of an older France, meeting up with group of boys who are happily gobbling down beignets from a street vendor. And for all their messiness, those beignets look good! “Give me extra jam,” they demand, “Lots of sugar…I want a big one.”

Makes you want to squeeze through that gap in the fence to get one.

Click below the jump for a recipe from Café Du Monde in New Orleans, well known for its beignets.

- Nora

Café Du Monde Beignets

1 package active dry yeast
1-1/2 cups warm water (100-115 degrees F)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup evaporated milk
7 cups flour
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
oil for deep frying
confectioner's sugar for dusting (or burying, depending on taste)

Put the warm water into a large bowl, then sprinkle in the yeast and a couple teaspoons of the sugar and stir until thoroughly dissolved. Let proof for 10 minutes. Add the rest of the sugar, salt, eggs, and evaporated milk. Gradually stir in 4 cups of the flour and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth and thoroughly blended. Beat in the shortening, then add the remaining flour, about 1/3 cup at a time, beating it in with a spoon until it becomes too stiff to stir, then working in the rest with your hands. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight in a greased bowl.

Roll the dough out onto a floured board or marble pastry surface to a thickness of 1/8 inch, then cut it into rectangles 2-1/2 inches by 3-1/2 inches with a sharp knife. Heat the oil in a deep fryer to 360 degrees F. Fry the beignets about 3 or 4 at a time until they are puffed out and golden brown on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per batch. Turn them over in the oil with tongs once or twice to get them evenly brown, since they rise to the surface of the oil as soon as they begin to puff out. Drain each batch, place on a platter lined with several layers of paper towels, and keep warm in a 200 degree F oven until they're all done.

Serve 3 beignets per person, sprinkling heavily with powdered sugar, and serve hot with cafe au lait.

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