Monday, February 28, 2011

Fat Tuesday’s Almost Here…


So come on over for some Jambalaya and King Cake!

2011 is in full swing now. I don’t know about you, but I’m in Mardi Gras mode! It’s time to live large and eat well before Lent begins, starting March 9th and running until April 17th of this year. Enjoying oneself with a good old-fashioned feast before Lent is a tradition that’s been celebrated the world over since about 1000 AD. Most of us know that “Mardi Gras” is “Fat Tuesday” in French; we know that it starts on the eve of Ash Wednesday and that, for this date more than any other, New Orleans is where it’s at, but looking into it a bit further, I learned some new stuff about Mardi Gras.

A Jambalaya that “SHRIVES” for Greatness

Did you know the United Kingdom refers to Mardi Gras as Shrove Tuesday? The word shrove is the past tense of shrive, which means to seek absolution through confession and penance. On Shrove Tuesday in certain parts of England, people purge their pantries of temptation and make—of all things—pancakes! Stay tuned on my entertaining blog for a piece on International Pancake Week, beginning March 1. In the meantime, ring in suppertime with a slow cooker favorite, Top Nana’s Jambalaya—serve up some hot n’ spicy bowls of this Big Easy fav in the Mardi gras mugs I found online—and make sure you save some room for King Cake!

About the King Cake…

While I’m a big proponent of letting the good times roll, I don’t have my own recipe for King Cake—at least not yet. Some people like to special order from a bakery, and look forward to a twisty shaped confection, sprinkled in the official Mardi Gras colors (purple, green and gold), with a toy baby hidden carefully inside. As Mardi Gras tradition goes, whoever finds that baby is responsible for hosting the next big Mardi Gras bash. It’s a good cake, and if you’ve ever made monkey bread, you’ll recall similarities between it and King Cake—here’s an easy recipe for making your King Cake homemade; however, this monkey bread recipe, calling for refrigerated biscuit dough, is a surefire shortcut! Just substitute pecans for walnuts and frost your finished product with 1 cup confectioner’s sugar and a tablespoon of water; have purple and gold sprinkles from the cake-decorating aisle standing by, and viola, you’ve got King Cake.

Son of a Gun, We’ll Have Some Fun on the Bayou

My Jambalya, like all Jambalaya reminds us of a keyword during Lent, in that it features “a trinity” of celery, peppers, and onions. I blend Creole flavors, replete with Carribean and Spanish accents and strive—or should I say shrive—to get a smokey, spicy Cajun flavor going on by adding smoked sausage and hot pepper sauce. To be clear, the Creoles like their jambalaya RED, and the Cajuns serve it BROWN; gorgeous in both colors, the real beauty of jambalaya is that it makes such good use of pantry staples, is as tasty as it is inexpensive, and lets your slow cooker do almost all the work. No wonder Hank Williams pays tribute in a song—and no wonder thousands flock to the annual Jambalaya Festival in Gonzales, LA (a suburb of Baton Rouge) held every Memorial Day weekend.

When and if you enjoy a Mardi Gras inspired dinner this month, remember that New Orleans’ festivities start on March 8th this year. Make sure you catch plenty of beads—but no matter where you are and when, take care to shimmer and shine the rest of 2011.

Au revoir,
TOP NANA


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