Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fat Tuesday

History of Mardi Gras
When most people think of Mardi Gras, they think of costumes, beads and the numerous parades and celebrations held in New Orleans.  While you might know that Mardi Gras is celebrated on the day before the beginning of Lent, you might not know that the term “Mardi Gras” literally means “Fat Tuesday,” and is a legal holiday in the state of Louisiana.  

Mardi Gras’ roots date back thousands of years ago, when pagans celebrated spring and fertility. When Christianity arrived in Rome, religious leaders decided to incorporate these traditions into the new faith, to subtly convert the local pagans to Christianity.  In the days leading up to Lent, they would eat all the meat, cheese, milk and other delicacies that they could consume, in preparation for several weeks of fasting.
Many historians believe that the first American Mardi Gras took place on March 3, 1699, when the French explorers Iberville and Bienville landed just south of what’s known today as New Orleans. French settlements began marking the holiday with street parties and masquerade balls. When the Spanish took control of New Orleans (after the French-Indian War which ended in 1763), they abolished the festivities, and the ban on publicly celebrating Mardi Gras remained until Louisiana became a U.S. state in 1812.

In 1857, a secret society (Mistick Krewe of Comus), organized a Mardi Gras parade with marching bands and floats, laying the foundation for festivities that continue to thrive today.

Mardi Gras at Home
If you can’t make it to New Orleans, you can make a mini Mardi Gras celebration of your own.  It may not be a parade down St. Charles Avenue, but a party with appropriate decorations and food are sure to make your Mardi Gras festive.Here are a few recipes I'll be using tonight:

  • 1lb sliced andouille sausage
  • 2 boneless chicken breasts (cut about the same size as sausage pieces)
  • 1 pound medium shrimp (deveined & tales removed)
  • 6c. chicken broth
  • 2 cans (14.5 ounces each) tomatoes, diced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 yellow or green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen thawed okra slices
  • 1 teaspoon Creole or Cajun seasoning
  • 1/4c. flour
  • Vegetable oil
  • hot boiled rice
In a Dutch oven or slow cooker, combine the chicken broth, tomatoes, sausage, & chicken. Put over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for a hour.

(After a hour) In a large skillet over medium-high heat, combine the 1/4 cup of oil and 1/4 cup flour. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is medium to deep brown. Don't let the mixture burn. Add the chopped onion, celery, and bell pepper and cook, stirring constantly with a spoon, until vegetables are softened. Stir the vegetable mixture into the simmering broth/meat mixture. 

Put the skillet back on the heat and add 2 teaspoons of oil; reduce to medium. Add the okra and cook, stirring, until lightly browned and not ropy/sticky. Add the okra to the pot along with the Creole or Cajun seasoning. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat for 1 hour. 

Add the shrimp and cook for an additional 15-20 minutes, until shrimp is cooked. Taste and add salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve the gumbo over hot boiled long-grain white rice. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley or green onions.

King Cake Cupcakes

  • Yellow or Butter flavor Cake Mix
  • 1 cup Buttermilk
  • 1/3 oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
Prepare cake mix with buttermilk, oil and eggs. In a seperate bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon, add melted butter and stir until crumbly. Add cupcake liners to a muffin pan, spoon about 1 tablespoon cake batter {I use a cookie dough scoop} to each liner. Sprinkle with cinnamon mixture, add 2 tablespoons more of cake batter.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely.

Glaze and Decorating:
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • milk, VERY small drizzle
Stir together powdered sugar and milk until desired consistency, you may need to add more milk if it’s too thick. Spoon glaze in the middle of the cupcake and let it drip down the sides. Immediately sprinkle with purple, yellow and green colored sugar.

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