Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras also called Fat Tuesday refers to events of the Carnival celebrations. beginning on or after the Christian feasts of the Epiphany (Three King's Day) and culminating on the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is French for "Fat Tuesday", reflecting the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season.

Popular practices on Mardi Gras include wearing masks and costumes, dancing, sports competitions, parades, debauchery, etc. In many areas, the term "Mardi Gras" has come to mean the whole period of activity related to the celebratory events, beyond just the single day. In some American cities, it is now called "Mardi Gras Day".
Kings Cake
A king cake is a type of cake associated in a number of countries with pre-lenten celebrations of Mardi Gras Carnival. What started out, roughly 300 years ago, as a dry French bread type dough with sugar on top and a bean inside is now a sweet, sugary and iced Danish-type dough braided with cinnamon inside and a plastic doll underneath. King Cakes are made of a cinnamon-filled dough in the shape of a hollow circle. They have a glazed topping and are sprinkled with colored sugars. Hundreds of thousands of King Cakes are eaten in New Orleans during the Carnival season.

The cake often has a small plastic baby (said to represent Baby Jesus) inside, or underneath; and the person who gets the piece of cake with the trinket has various privileges and obligations.

The recipe seemed labor intensive when I could buy this one at the bakery. So I put my energies into Jambalaya, a popular dish from New Orleans. I made chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting and sprinkled them with purple, green and yellow sprinkles (Mardi Gras colors).  
Jambalaya is a Louisiana Creole dish of Spanish and French influence. It originated in the Caribbean Islands.
Cook’s notes: You will need to add more chicken broth on the second day to serve the dish, since the rice absorbs the broth. Serves 8

  • 1 box Zatarains's New Orleans style Jambalaya Mix 
  • 2 large chicken breasts
  • 2-3 cups diced Andouille sausage
  • 2 TB. olive oil
  • 1 can low sodium chicken broth (14.5 oz.)
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes (basil, oregano, garlic)
  • 3 oz. tomato paste
  • 2 cups of water
  • ¾ cup diced onion
  • 3/4 cup mini red and yellow peppers, diced
  • 3/4 cup celery, diced 
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • ½ tsp. Cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp.sugar 
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley flakes
  • 1 tsp. basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Optional: substitute 2 cups  cooked shrimp for chicken and add in last 15 minutes of cooking time. 
  • Cook chicken breasts at 350 degrees for 50 minutes and sausage 20 minutes
  • Cool and dice both meats-set aside
  • In a large skillet sauté onions, celery, green pepper and garlic
  • Add in water, broth, spices, jambalaya rice mixture, sugar, tomato paste, canned tomatoes, bay leaf and diced meats
  • Simmer 45 minutes on low heat covered
  • Remove bay leaf before serving

The first day of the 2015 Chinese New Year is on February 19, 2015 in China's time zone. This day is a new moon day, and is the first day of the first Chinese lunar month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar system. 2015 is the Year of The Sheep.
The next two postings will feature recipes to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

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