Celebrating Fat Tuesday
Let the party begin! Even if you’re not visiting Louisiana for Mardi Gras, it’s still fun to cook like you’re in the French Quarter.
These three recipes–gumbo, cornbread, and a simple king cake–make an easy-to-prepare Mardi Gras menu.
Start the cornbread first—it’s made in a slow cooker. Mix together the gumbo ingredients, and while that simmers on the stove, put the king cake into the oven. Serve it for dessert along with a hot cup of cinnamon-flavored coffee.
Put on some jazz tunes and pull out the beads—it’s Mardi Gras time!
SLOW COOKER LOUISIANA CORNBREAD
INGREDIENTS (Serves 8)
1¼ C. flour
¾ C. yellow cornmeal
¼ C. sugar
1 T. plus 1½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
¾ C. heavy cream
⅓ C. butter, melted
¼ C. water
Heavily coat a 2-quart slow cooker with cooking spray; set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt; stir lightly. Add egg, cream, butter, and water, and stir until just moistened. Spread evenly in the prepared cooker.
Cover and cook on high for 2 to 3 hours, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out nearly clean. Remove the insert from the cooker, uncover, and set on a wire rack.
To enjoy warm, run a knife around the sides of the insert to loosen the cornbread, slice, and serve. Or leave the insert on the wire rack until cool then loosen the cornbread by running a knife around the edges. Carefully invert the insert and turn the cornbread out onto a cutting board. Slice and serve with butter, preserves, and/or honey.
Note: Using a slow cooker for this recipes results in a delciously tender cornbread. Cooking food in a slow cooker always makes sense. In summer, it keeps the kitchen cool. Around the holidays, it’s a great way to free up oven space. Any time, it’s the perfect solution for yummy no-fuss dishes.
INGREDIENTS (Serves 8)
6 to 9 oz. fully cooked Andouille sausage, sliced
1 C. chopped celery
1 green bell pepper, chopped
½ C. chopped onion
2 tsp. minced garlic
½ C. canola oil
½ C. flour
4 C. chicken stock
2 (14.5 oz.) cans stewed tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 C. frozen cut okra, thawed
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 T. smoked paprika
4 to 6 oz. fully cooked peeled shrimp (thawed if frozen)
Salt and black pepper to taste
1½ to 2 C. cooked rice, optional
Brown the sausage in a big pot over medium heat about 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, reserving drippings in the pot. Add the celery, bell pepper, onion, and garlic to the pot and cook for 8 minutes, until the veggies are crisp-tender, stirring occasionally. Dump them in with the sausage and set aside.
In the same pot, heat the oil over medium heat and gradually whisk in the flour. Cook and stir until the mixture turns medium brown. Gradually whisk in the stock. Stir in the tomatoes, okra, chicken, paprika, and set-aside sausage mixture. Bring to a boil then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove and shred the chicken; return the shredded meat to the pot and add the shrimp. Season with salt and black pepper and heat through. Serve in bowls with rice.
SHORTCUT KING CAKE
INGREDIENTS (Serves 8)
2 (8-ct.) tubes refrigerated cinnamon rolls or orange-flavored rolls
1 whole pecan or tiny baby doll*
Yellow and purple sanding/decorating sugars
Preheat the oven to 375°. Open and remove rolls from packages and set aside the frosting packets.
Grease a big cookie sheet and arrange the cinnamon rolls on their sides in a circle. Press down gently on the rolls to flatten slightly. If you’re using a whole pecan, place it somewhere inside one of the rolls. Bake according to package directions. Let cool. If you’re using a tiny baby doll, insert it after the rolls have cooled.
Frost the rolls with the set-aside frosting and sprinkle with sanding sugars. Serve immediately or cover at room temperature up to 24 hours.
*What’s up with this? See below for the history of the king cake and the reason for the pecan or doll.
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Mardi Gras actually means Fat Tuesday in French; it takes place the day before Ash Wednesday. If you take part in the tradition of fasting for Lent, you’ll be giving up certain foods until Easter. Mardis Gras is the last day for indulging in those foods.
What’s a king cake?
A symbol of Epiphany, the cake is baked in a circular shape to represent a king’s crown. There are several variations to king cake, but in New Orleans, king cakes are usually made from sweet braided cinnamon dough, glazed and colored with sanding sugars.
Traditionally, king cakes have a dried fava bean, whole pecan, or tiny porcelain baby doll (representing baby Jesus) baked inside. Sometimes a plastic doll is inserted following baking and cooling of the cake instead. The person who is served the piece with the hidden treasure is said to receive a boost of good luck.
What’s up with the colors?
Purple is said to represent justice, gold represents power, and green, faith.