What’s Cooking

Mardi Gras begins on March 2 of this year. Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday in French. It’s sometimes called a carnival. The most spectacular Mardi Gras celebration takes place in New Orleans, La. People parade around in fancy costumes with elaborately decorated masks. They throw necklaces, miniature toys and plastic coins to spectators.

The best thing Louisiana is known for is their delicious Cajun cuisine. Groups of people who originated from France and immigrated to Canada are the Acadians. They were forced to leave Canada so they settled in the swamps and bayous of Southern Louisiana.

Cajun cooking is done with ingredients that are simplistic and predominant to the area. They often used one pot cooking methods to create meat and veggies in a thick sauce. Foods native to the area are crab, oysters, alligator, catfish, shrimp and crawfish as well as red fish. Rice was readily available as well as bell pepper, okra, black pepper and cayenne. Cajun cuisine has major African American, Native American and Spanish influence.

Some well-known Cajun dishes you may be familiar with are jambalaya, crawfish pie, étouffée and filet gumbo.

Some notable desserts are beignets, which are basically fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar, bread pudding with a bourbon vanilla sauce or bananas foster which originated in New Orleans made with cooked bananas flambé in a butter, brown sugar and rum sauce served over ice cream.

I love to throw parties and celebrations. It would be fun to host a dinner party and include a couple main dishes and a dessert. I would decorate with Mardi Gras colors which are purple, green and gold as well as some colorful beads and masks. Here are a few recipes you might like to try for your own dinner party.

Chicken, Ham and Shrimp Jambalaya

• 1 lb shrimp, medium sized raw

• 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast cut into 1-inch cubes

• 1/2 cup flour

• 1⁄8 teaspoon black pepper

• 1⁄8 teaspoon Cayenne pepper

• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

• 10 ounces ham cubed

• 4 garlic cloves, chopped

• 2 cups yellow onion chopped

• 2 cups celery, chopped

• 1 cup green bell pepper chopped

• 1⁄2 cup red bell pepper, chopped

• 1⁄2 cup yellow bell pepper, chopped

• 3 cups chicken broth

• 1(14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes

• 1⁄2 cup green onion, chopped

• 2 tablespoons parsley chopped

• 2 cups long grain rice, uncooked

• 1 teaspoon hot sauce

Directions:

Peel and de-vein shrimp. Dredge chicken in flour mixture that contains 1/8 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp black pepper, and dash of cayenne pepper. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add chicken, and cook, stirring constantly, 3 to 4 minutes or until browned on all sides. Remove chicken using a slotted spoon. Add ham to Dutch oven, and cook, stirring constantly, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove ham using a slotted spoon. Add garlic onion, celery and bell pepper to Dutch oven; stir to loosen particles from bottom. Stir in ham and chicken. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes. Add tomatoes, green onion, parsley, rice, hot sauce and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 20 minutes.

Crawfish Etouffée

• 1 (1 lb) bag peeled crawfish tail

• 1⁄2 cup butter

• 1 large yellow onion minced

• 1 large green bell pepper minced

• 2 stalks celery minced

• 2 stalks parsley minced

• some green onion tips

• 1 tablespoon minced garlic

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper

• 1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1

• can cream of mushroom soup

• cooked rice

Directions:

In dutch oven melt butter over medium heat. Add onions, bell pepper, celery and garlic. Sauté vegetables until soft, about 30 to 45 minutes. Add Crawfish tails and seasonings. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the mushroom soup, let it simmer for 5 minutes. Add to crawfish mixture, cover and simmer for 10 more minutes. Serve on hot rice.

Quick Beignets

• 1 cup all-purpose flour

• 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

• 1 teaspoon baking powder

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1/2 cup milk

• 1 large egg, beaten

• 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled

• Vegetable oil, for frying

• Powdered sugar, for serving

Directions:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a second medium bowl, whisk together the milk, egg and butter until smooth. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture and whisk until just combined. Do not overwork. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. When the oil is hot, drop spoonfuls of the batter into the oil in small batches, taking care not to overcrowd the pot. Cook until the exterior is golden brown and the interior is soft and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to the prepared platter in a 275 degree oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining batter. Dust the hot beignets heavily with powdered sugar. Serve hot.

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