Pass the King Cake. It's Mardi Gras

What's purple, yellow, green and sweet all over — and mostly available only in New Orleans? Just in time for Mardi Gras, we sink our teeth into King Cake, that Louisiana delicacy, with superchef Paul Prudhomme.

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ALISON STEWART, host:

In Arthur Hardy's "Mardi Gras Guide," it lists the things that signal you know you're from New Orleans when you - when you didn't learn until high school that Mardi Gras wasn't a national holiday…

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: …you're boastful that you're baby's first words were long beads. That you think purple, gold and green looked good together and you'll even eat things in those colors. And you think that finding a foreign object in your cake is a good thing. So let's focus on those last two. I was referring to a King Cake, a Louisiana delicacy that makes an appearance around epiphany, January 6th, to the last day before Lent - Fat Tuesday. Now, the BRYANT PARK PROJECT at NPR is in the heart of New York City, but our heart is with New Orleans, in more ways than one, and so our taste buds.

We had a couple of King Cakes shipped up here and we even made one ourselves, believe it or not. But before we dig in, we really need some expertise here. So on the line is super chef Paul Prudhomme, here, to guide us through this tasting process. He is the owner of K-Paul's Restaurant - which is fabulous - and founder of the magic seasoning blends, and author of, most recently, of "Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Tastes."

Chef, thanks for being with us.

Mr. PAUL PRUDHOMME (Owner, K-Paul's Restaurant; Author, "Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Tastes"): Good morning. Happy Mardi Gras.

STEWART: Happy Mardi Gras to you.

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Happy Mardi Gras.

STEWART: Hey, let's start with the colors on the cakes and that foreign object thing I was talking about.

Mr. PRUDHOMME: Yes?

STEWART: Why are the cakes decorated green, gold and purple? And why would I be really excited to find a foreign object in my cake?

Mr. PRUDHOMME: Well, that was sort of the Mardi Gras colors, and so that's why the cake's that way. But what's in it is fun because there's a little bitty baby in the cake and everybody gets a piece of the cake. And if you happen to chomp down on the little baby, then you got to do the next party, man.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: You're the next host the next year. So you're a native Louisiana, right? You're one of 13 kids?

Mr. PRUDHOMME: That's right. I'm one of those people you guys call a Cajun.

STEWART: So, what are your fondness memories in eating King Cake?

Mr. PRUDHOMME: Well, I think it's, you know, it's a thing that happened in New Orleans more than anywhere else, but I grew up with our version of a King Cake in the country. Like here, we do floats, you know - in the city New Orleans, we do floats, you know, we were animated, automated and everything you can imagine.

STEWART: Mm-hmm.

Mr. PRUDHOMME: But in - where I'm from, we do it on horseback and we still do it on horseback.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: So, okay, I need you to put on your Louisianan hat and then also your chef's hat and tell me what criteria do you use to judge a really fabulous King Cake.

Mr. PRUDHOMME: Well, it's basically just the way it - I mean some of them - some of them can get ugly tasting. It depends who cooked it, you know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PRUDHOMME: …who put it together. But a King Cake is really wonderful. It's sweet, it's good, you know? It has good - great colors in it. And, you know, it's fun to be, because when you doing a King Cake, you always do it with crowd. And so whether you're at the office or whether you're at - no matter where you're at doing it, you know, you all do a King Cake by yourself. You just get a whole bunch of people together and you all have a King Cake, baby.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: We got a whole bunch of people in our studio eyeballing and some King Cakes right now.

Mr. PRUDHOMME: Yup.

STEWART: So, what are the ingredients? Is it more cake or is it more bread brioche or…

Mr. PRUDHOMME: Actually, it's a little bit between the bread and the cake because a cake is much softer than - and much more crumbly than a King Cake. And a King Cake is not as, you know, is not as residuent(ph) as bread is. So, you know, so it's between two of them.

STEWART: I love those bells in the background. Where are you, sir?

MARTIN: Are you in a church?

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Little ambiance.

MARTIN: Little ambiance.

Mr. PRUDHOMME: Little ambiance.

MARTIN: (Unintelligible).

STEWART: All right. Before I let you go, I got a couple of fact-checking things I need to do with you, Chef Paul.

Mr. PRUDHOMME: Sure.

STEWART: Is it bad luck if you don't eat Mardi Gras - King Cake during Mardi Gras season?

Mr. PRUDHOMME: Well, we got all kind of things going on here. I mean one of the things that New Orleans is great at, and Louisiana as a whole. You know, where I'm from, in the Lafayette area - we're superstitious.

STEWART: Mm-hmm.

Mr. PRUDHOMME: And we're always going to these superstitious. And it's part of our life and we love it. And so, you know, if you don't do something, something's bad is going to happen to you, you know? If you do too much of it, something's bad is going to you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: So before I let you go, because I know you're a busy man, we appreciate you taking the time during the holiday season for you folks. Anything else I should know about a King Cake because I don't think I can hold my step back from these cakes much longer?

MARTIN: We're about to eat these.

Mr. PRUDHOMME: Cut that (unintelligible) and whoever gets the baby, gets the penalty, man. They got to do it the next time.

STEWART: Super chef Paul Prudhomme, happy Mardi Gras to you.

Mr. PRUDHOMME: Happy Mardi Gras, everybody.

STEWART: Happy Mardi Gras.

Mr. PRUDHOMME: I got one more thing to say, go cooking, good eating, good loving, we love you guys.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Good loving, I like it.

STEWART: Thanks, Chef Paul. All right, you guys. So Dan Pashman has been here diligently cutting the King Cake. We've got three of them. They're from various different places from Haydel. That was from King Cakes online and we have a third made in Brooklyn, New York…

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAN PASHMAN: Yeah.

STEWART: …courtesy of…

MARTIN: (Unintelligible) on the house.

STEWART: Now, it's really cool - actually, I went to the Haydel's Bakery once and they let me put the baby in the cake.

PASHMAN: Really?

STEWART: It was like a little plastic, baby. And if you get it, then you have to host party next time.

MATT MARTINEZ: It's really amazing. I mean you just - you open up the boxes and the smell is overpowering.

STEWART: And these are so pretty. I mean they are the purple and goldish and green, and they're shipped from - look at - ship, yeah.

MARTINEZ: All right.

STEWART: Okay, go for it Matt Martinez.

MARTINEZ: Even though I am healthy Matt this week, and I've started my new don't eat stuff that's…

STEWART: Matt, if you don't eat it, you're going to have bad luck.

PASHMAN: I know, so I'm getting it - oh, my god. Oh, my god.

STEWART: Which one is that, so we know?

MARTINEZ: From Haydel, I think.

STEWART: Okay.

PASHMAN: This is the Haydel…

MARTINEZ: No, no, this is from King Cakes online.

PASHMAN: Yeah.

MARTINEZ: No.

STEWART: Okay. How you feel about that, Matt? (Unintelligible) this one.

MARTINEZ: Oh, my god.

MARTIN: Oh, no. I got a baby.

STEWART: Oh, this time next year, Rachel's got to host the Mardi Gras party.

MARTIN: Yes. This is a little disturbing.

MARTINEZ: Yeah.

STEWART: The baby - (unintelligible).

MARTIN: The baby in my bread.

STEWART: So, which one do you have, Haydel?

MARTIN: Okay, this is - what is this?

STEWART: It's Haydel.

MARTIN: Oh, Haydel.

MARTINEZ: By the way, we're videotaping all this so you can these shenanigans later on the blog.

MARTIN: Okay. Okay. Hmm.

MARTINEZ: The first one is a lot like a doughnut, the King Cakes online.

PASHMAN: Yeah.

MARTIN: Oh.

STEWART: And then the Haydel is like what?

MARTINEZ: Haydel is a little more like a cinnamon bun, like a Danish.

STEWART: Oh.

MARTIN: It's like hot (unintelligible).

MARTINEZ: And intern Laura's is kind of brake pad.

STEWART: This one is just like a big dose of sugary love. It's all good. It's all green. It's all gold. And it's all right here in the BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News.

MARTIN: Hmm.

STEWART: Oh, my god. It smells so good.

MARTINEZ: You know, why don't (unintelligible)?

STEWART: Oh, it's (unintelligible).

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: (Unintelligible), I was trying to give you all wrap, but that's not happening apparently.

MARTINEZ: We're not going anywhere.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PASHMAN: We're not going anywhere.

STEWART: All right. I'll just do the (unintelligible). Keep feeding your (unintelligible).

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Coming up next on the BPP, new music with Andy Langer and a Super Tuesday song from Jill Sobule for you as we head to the polls. This is the BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News. (Unintelligible).

PASHMAN: Okay. (Unintelligible).

MARTIN: Happy Mardi Gras.

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