Archive for Beck’s Cajun Cafe

Creole Crab Bisque

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We recently hosted a “Mardi Gras in May” themed party as a fundraiser for the local school.  We’ve riffed plenty about Cajun food in previous other posts, but we wanted to share this wonderful soup we developed for the event.    It was a huge hit, supremely elegant as a first course, and was pretty simple to make.

This soup is a spicy variation on the traditional crab bisque.   Our beloved Beck’s Devil Dust gave the dish some serious spice, but lent a complexity and depth of flavors that transcended the merely hot.   The bisque’s color is beautiful; served with finely chopped chives it makes an elegant first course.
Serves 4-6

4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour

3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon Beck’s Devil Dust
6 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon thyme
2 bay leaves
1 pound lump crab meat

1. In soup pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour, forming a roux, and cook 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until it turns a light brown color.
2. Add tomato paste, onion, celery, garlic and seasonings. Saute 10 minutes or so until vegetables begin to soften. Add seasonings and broth.
3. Simmer over low heat 30 minutes. Remove bay leaves and puree soup with immersion blender or food processor.
4. Add crabmeat, heat, and serve.


In Celebration of Pecan Pralines!

Pecan Pralines have a rich history which dates back some 400 years.

Pralines are believed to be the invention of a French chef in service to a Count whose family name was du Plessis-Praslin (hence the anglicization of Praline) in New Orleans.  Other U.S. states or cities have attempted to claim ownership, but the recipe originated in a New Orleans kitchen.  For the fascinating, action-packed, story see the Southern Candymakers website.

Sunday June 24 is National Praline Day, but any day is a good day to devour these sweet treats.

At Beck’s Cajun Cafe in Reading Terminal Market, Chef Bill likes to cook up a batch around the major holidays and Feast Days.

Believe it.

Beck’s Pralines taste and smell just as good as they look in food photographer Albert Yee’s gourmet photographs :)

Bill is a devotee of the famous New Orleans chef, John Besh so we’re sharing Besh’s easy cook recipe here.  (Note: this recipe appeared on Elle Decor‘s website.)


• 2 tbsp. canola oil
• 2 cups sugar
• 2 cups light brown sugar
• 1 cup half-and-half
• 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
• 2 cups pecan pieces
• 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Set 3 sheets of waxed paper on a work surface and brush with the oil.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugars, half-and-half and butter and heat, without stirring, over medium heat to 235˚F on a candy thermometer, 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes. Stir in the pecans and vanilla. Working quickly, before the mixture hardens, drop by heaping tablespoon onto the oiled wax paper. Allow pralines to cool until completely set, about 30 minutes. (If the pralines flatten too much when you drop them, give the mixture 4 to 5 vigorous stirs with a wooden spoon to thicken.) Makes about 50 pralines.

Italian Fest at the Reading Terminal Market

Anna of La Cucina divulged the secrets to making traditional filled cannolis

This Saturday the Reading Terminal Market was transformed into a Italian “mercato”…

Center Court was packed with vendors selling speciality products such as porchetta, fresh pasta, cheeses, wines, gelato (from Cappogiro of course), and much more!   Market stalwarts such as Molly Malloys, By George and Beck’s touted traditional Italian foods such as paninis, pizza and strombolis while the Munier Mandolin and Guitar Orchestra serenaded shoppers and visitors for much of the afternoon.

“Sounds like the soundtrack for The Godfather,” quipped one passerby.

A highlight of the Italian Fest was the action-packed Italian cooking demonstration which took place in La Cucina.  Chef and owner Anna Florio, who is herself of Italian origin, took this opportunity to share favorite recipes with the next generation of potential chefs and market shoppers.

Helping with the salad takes on a new meaning as these two volunteers vigorously shred Romaine lettuce.

Another volunteer rather more gingerly helps prep the citrus for the salad.

Photo opportunity anyone?

One of the most charming aspect of this Italian Fest is that many children and teens threw themselves into the festivities.  These cut out boards for example provided a photo opportunity for family members and were much enjoyed.

Aside from being a foodie heaven, the Reading Terminal Market is a great destination for visiting families, tourists to the City and locals.  Events like the Italian Fest help put the Market on the map, combining food, fun and educational opportunities.

Ever wondered what’s on the inside of a muffaletta, for instance?

We found out, thanks to Chef Bill Beck…

Ever thought you should try a wheatgrass shot from the Market’s juice bar??? 

I was talked into it by my teen son on Saturday.  Hmmmm. 

Wish I hadn’t.

Breakfast Fare at the Market

My foodie partner Keri and I have an ongoing disagreement.  While she is a huge fan of breakfast, she is a downer on brunch, because it falls in that dead zone between breakfast and lunch (and she’s a stickler for etiquette.) 

For me, brunch is a languid breakfast — one of those ultimate indulgences that you only get to do, very occasionally, at the weekend or when you’re on holiday and can have a lie in…

What we both agree on, however, is the importance of a hearty breakfast to set you up for the day. 

You’d think that this would be an indisputable truth, but according to the medical website, WebMD, the majority of people still grab a coffee on the go and call that breakfast.  WebMD asserts that “making breakfast a daily habit can help you lose weight — and keep it off.”

In a post entitled Lose Weight: Eat Breakfast, WebMD cites several studies to back up their claim including a study using data supplied by The National Weight Control Registry.  As WebMD maintains: “Eating breakfast is a daily habit for the “successful losers” who belong to The National Weight Control Registry. These people have maintained a 30-pound (or more) weight loss for at least a year, and some as long as six years.”

Now that we know how important it is to eat breakfast, here’s a selection of some of the breakfasts that we’ve enjoyed at Reading Terminal Market.

1. Down Home Diner’s Spinach Omelet, turkey bacon, pigs in blankets, and grilled tomatoes. 

2.The Famous Smucker’s Breakfast Sandwiches – their sausage, egg and cheese is a current fave.

3.  Beck’s Cajun Cafe–We mourn the fact that Beck’s Beignets are only available on Wednesdays and Sundays. For those other days of the week, try Beck’s Bourbon St. Breakfast: Red beans and rice topped with a fried egg.

Beck’s Beignets

4.  Le Bus.  When you only have time for a grab-and-go breakfast, then the Market’s bakeries are the answer…

LeBus Muffins and Rolls

Metropolitan Croissants

5.  Metropolitan Bakery.  See #4.  Their millet muffin is delicious and provides plenty of whole grain roughage

6.  Profi’s Creperie.  We like both their sweet and savory options.  The egg/cheese/ham filled crepe fills the gap nicely.

8.  Dutch Eating Place–This is fast food and fast service, but it’s good food too.

9 & 10.  Once you’re done, stop by Tootsie’s for a healthy lunch-to-go, Old City Coffee for a quick coffee, or one of the fresh produce merchants to grab some fresh fruit for a mid-morning snack!

Pancakes bursting with blueberries, or

A protein-packed cheesy omlet.

Which of these breakfasts stoke your fire in the mornings?

Girls’ Night Out at La Cucina in Reading Terminal Market

Girls’ Night Out Cajun Cooking Class
“I love my job,” says Anna Florio, owner of La Cucina at the Market, the cooking school in the heart of Philly’s own Reading Terminal Market.  “People are always so happy when they come here to cook..” Looking round the room at the sea of bright, smiling faces, you couldn’t disagree with her.
Sixteen ladies were joining Anna and her chef du jour, Bill Beck of the Market’s own Beck’s Cajun Cafe, to crack the secrets of Cajun cookery.
The Bourbon Street Small Plates menu looked daunting…

The Girls started out by sampling a Sazerac Spritzer comprising whiskey, Absinthe, Lemon and Bitters. 

For Chef Beck’s recipe, which leaves you wanting another (and another, and another…..) click here.   For a potted history of this cocktail, see cocktails.

While sipping cocktails the Girls and their guests munched away on crab claws served up with Beck’s own famous Creole Mayo.  The tart spiciness of the Mayo worked perfectly with the fleshy crab claws… (Feel free to steal this idea for your own appetisers.)

Bill and Anna then called on the Girls to pitch in.  All present took it in turns being sous-chefs, manning their respective food stations in La Cucina and helping out with the food prep. 

Creole Crostini came first.  Goat cheese was whipped with heavy cream, piled onto thinly sliced and toasted baguette and this melange was then topped with a rather exciting spicy tomato jam (for recipe see http://www.beck’scajuncafe/.)

This appetiser was then followed by Bill’s Garden District Salad. 

This is an easy to make, brightly colored, all year round salad consisting of salad greens (Bill used a spring mix); artichokes in oil; hearts of palm and central to the salad, freshly roasted red peppers.

Two volunteer sous-chefs gamely roasted the peppers on an open flame.

After the ingredients had been chopped into evenly sized pieces, Bill whisked up a classic Dijon vinaigrette to drizzle over the salad.  (He ameliorated this recipe by the addition of fresh snipped chives and a crushed garlic clove.)

The pinnacle of the evening was learning how to cook that New Orleans special occasion dish – a Crawfish Boil, which includes crawfish, kielbasa (a Polish spicy sausage) fresh corn on the cob, red potatoes and of course lager.  (Bill favours Yuengling for his boil.)

Beck’s Devil Dust, Cayenne Pepper and Hot Sauce give this dish its bite

For many, the highlight of the menu was Bill’s Mini Bread Puddings.  This dish is one of the best sellers in Beck’s Cajun Cafe and for good reason.  Beck’s bread pudding is more than just an eggy pudding.  The crunchy bread topping is doused in a light vanilla-infused custard which sits on a compote of sweet pears.

The attendees learned the secret of how to make this memorable New Orleans version of a traditional bread pudding.  Want to find out for yourself?  Full details to follow in a later post.

Bill shows the gals how to hold a cook’s knife correctly and slice through corn cleanly.  This was just one of the inside tricks of the trade he shared with the attendees at La Cucina’s Girls’ Night Out

New Orleans Garden District Salad

At La Cucina’s “Girls Night Out” Cajun Cooking Class, Chef Bill Beck shared his tricks of the trade

The Garden District in New Orleans is world famous as an example of Southern architecture. 

The District earned its name because of the mansions built in this spot for the wealthy plantation owners: their supersized houses initially featured glorious oversized gardens. 

As the City grew during the late 1800s, a number of the owners of these spectacular mansions sold off parcels of their land and smaller Victorian houses were built on the site of these former gardens.

Today, the Garden District is a unique melting pot of architectural styles, characterized by “a mélange of high styles gleaned from not just the Spanish and French, but also from the Italians, the British, and the “Greek Revival.” (for further info, see’s insightful overview on the District’s lineage.)

The food emanating from New Orleans reflects the varied influences that shape and define this unique city - which is what makes the New Orleans cuisine so attractive. 
In tribute to this heritage, Chef Bill Beck of Beck’s Cajun Cafe rolled out his Garden District Salad at a recent cooking class held at La Cucina in Reading Terminal Market.  The classes, designated as a “Girls’ Night Out,” focused on Cajun cooking with Chef Bill demonstrating a series of New Orleans small plates, including this Garden District Salad.
The salad is colorful and evocative of sunshine-laden days spent in New Orleans….
(This salad serves 4 people.  Scale up quantities dependent on the size of your dinner party!)
1x jar of marinated artichokes
4 stems of hearts of palm, cut into 1/2 inch rounds
1 red pepper roasted and skin removed, then cut into strips.
Spring mix salad greens
For the vinaigrette dressing
(The recipe below produces approximately 14 oz of dressing.  As the recipe includes raw egg we would not recommend storing the dressing for any length of time.  Use immediately.  If you would like to omit the egg then the dressing will keep for longer, perhaps 2-3 days, in the fridge.
2 tsps of Dijon mustardbsps olive oil
3 cloves of garlic minced
1 egg white
6oz of virgin olive oil
4oz of vegetable oil
2 tbsps of finely minced cloves
2-3 tbsps of water
1 1/2 tbsps of honey
Juice of a lemon
1 1/2 oz Apple Cider
1 1/2 oz Champagne Cider
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Mix first three ingredients together in a bowl.
2. Slowly add the two types of oil to this mix. Add approx 2oz at a time (Note the virgin olive oil provides a strong flavor.  To balance this out and ensure that the salad is not overwhelmed, Chef Bill prefers to use vegetable oil in tandem with the virgin oil.)
3. Add chives, water - to thin the dressing slightly - and the honey.
4. Add the juice of the lemon and then add the two vinegars a little at a time — to stretch out the dressing.
5. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Toss Spring mix salad in dressing, then add in other prepared salad ingredients (artichokes, pepper, hearts of palm.)
The resulting salad has great texture and crunch.  Enjoy!

Cheers! Festive Beverages for the Holidays

In the spirit of the holiday season, now in full swing, we offer two spectacular new recipes for festive beverages. 

Lemon Fizz

For each serving:

1 scoop lemon sorbet
1 flute sparkling wine
splash of Grappa

Place all ingredients in a blender; mix til smooth.  Enjoy.

Low Octane Lemon Fizz:  for kids, designated drivers, or non drinkers of all types, substitute non-alcoholic sparkling cider for the sparkling wine and omit the Grappa.  Be sure to keep track of the different batches….We made these last Thanksgiving and my 6 year old nephew got hold of the wrong glass.  He guzzled it down, made a horrid face, acted rather silly for a bit, and fell asleep in his turkey dinner.

And this toasty treat from Chef Bill Beck of Beck’s Cajun Cafe is sure to warm  your hearts and parts…
Cajunista Hottie Toddy
Serves 2
2 cups apple cider
3 oz spiced rum
juice of 1/2 lemon
5 TBSP brown sugar
2 sticks cinnamon
1/4 tsp Becks Devil Dust
Heat all ingredients in a small saucepan.  When warm, pour into mugs and enjoy.  Cheers!

RTM Breakfasts for Cold Weather

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  And as the chill winter wind approaches, we need a hearty meal to start our engines.  Good thing Reading Terminal Market has such a wealth of high quality, reasonably priced breakfast options to keep us going til spring!

Molly Malloy’s Blueberry French Toast

Beck’s Cajun Cafe Breakfast Po’boy
Down Home Diner’s Scapple and Scrambled Eggs
Dutch Eating Place’s Blueberry Pancakes

Feeling healthy?  Tootsie’s steel cut oatmeal will start your day off right!
Can’t decide?  Tootsie’s Breakfast Bar has plenty of options!

So no excuses. If you don’t have time to sit down and enjoy a leisurely meal, there are plenty of speedy takeout, grab and go options. Cold and flu season is upon us and we need all our strength to stay healthy. Your mother was right. You need a good breakfast!

You Say Potato, I Say Pot-ah-to!

Fall produce shines at Reading Terminal Market.  Today we spotlight potatoes.

I love potatoes. Blame it on my Irish-American heritage or my addiction to carbs. Mashed, baked, roasted, fried, white, russet, yukon gold or sweet, this girl loves her spuds.

I can easily make a meal out of a potato–scrub, prick, bake at 400 about an hour, cut the top, and fill with anything from cottage cheese to chili con carne and I’m a happy lass. Said meals are reserved for when I’m dining solo; husband doesn’t cotton to this type of carb-fest, being more of a lean protein and salad kind of guy (I know, I know, but he’s handsome and has a good job).  My carnivorous kids would wonder where the rest of their dinner was.  Other fave spud dinner:  baked sweet potato topped with black beans and salsa–no fat, lots of flavor, rich in vitamins, high in fiber, cheap and filling.  Good

My British partner has been on a recent rant about the fact that the mashed potatoes she makes in her adopted country, i.e. the US, do not match the fluffy, light, Utopian version that she recalls from her youth.  She has set herself on a Grail-like quest to recreate British mashed potatoes stateside.  She has tried Bon Appetit’s version using russets, but was disappointed. If you have any insights or hints, we’d be delighted to hear them, either as a blog comment below or FB post.  But meanwhile, back in the potato patch….

My latest potato creation arose out of an ongoing love affair with Beck’s Cajun Cafe’s Devil Dust.    This spice blend is positively wonderful; I have used it on salmon, shrimp, hamburgers, steak, chicken, pumpkin seeds, and now potatoes.  All have been transformed something good into something wonderful.   I’ve become so addicted I’m considering putting it in my morning java…do we need an intervention?

To make Devil Dusted Potatoes……

3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large bite sized chunks
2 white potatoes (any variety) peeled if you insist (I refuse) and cut into large bite sized chunks
1-2 TBSP canola oil (enough to lightly coat potatoes)
1 TBSP Beck’s Devil Dust

Heat oven to 400.  Place potatoes in large baking dish and toss with oil and Devil Dust.  Roast til browned, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, 45 minutes or more.   Serve hot, to general amazement and adoration.

Devilishly Delicious Halloween Snack

Last year we featured a Halloween recipe that used the whole pumpkin.   This year we’re going inside–to the seeds.  These crunchy little nuggets are nutritious, simple to prepare (recipe below), and with the addition of Beck’s Devil Dust spice blend,  downright irresistible.  

Devil Dust Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

Seeds from one pumpkin
1-2 TBSP canola oil
1-2 tsp Beck’s Devil Dust

Heat oven to 350.  Remove seeds from one large pumpkin.  Rinse them thoroughly to get rid of the pulp.  Spread seeds on a rimmed baking sheet, and toss with oil and Devil Dust.  (Seeds should be lightly coated with oil and dusted with the spices.)  Roast in oven about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally so seeds brown evenly.  When done, they should be browned and crisp.