It’s Mardi Gras. I like to think of it as Fat Tuesday. It sounds less exotic but a lot more fun and funky. If you don’t agree, say it out loud, Fat Tuesday. Or better yet, Phat Tuesday. Has a nice ring doesn’t it? I’ve decided that it’s a good name for a bistro or one of those little corner cafés or bars where everyone knows your name.
It may be last minute but regardless of what serious and important things you’ve planned for today; it’s time to reconsider. With apologies to my English friends … please don’t look across the pond for ideas. Fat Tuesday is Pancake Day in England. The day is celebrated by confessing sins and eating pancakes.
If you’re uncertain and don’t know what to do or where to start, let Noo Awlins (please pardon my woeful pronunciation) inspire you. Boy oh boy, there is a lot there to inspire. Not only is New Orleans famous for Mardi Gras, it is the birthplace of jazz and home of some wonderful food.
To get in the spirit, grab your purple beads, green rings and golden spangles. It’s easier to think silly thoughts or consider an outrageous adventure if you are decked out in flamboyant bangles and beads. Okay, maybe you’re not up for an outrageous adventure but at least have some fun. Need more encouragement? Maybe a steaming café au lait, heavy on the chicory, and a sweet beignet will get you in the mood. If you can’t find a classic beignet in your neighborhood, I guess a donut will do.
If you’ve been following my suggestions, you are now dressed up like a Christmas tree and high on caffeine and sugar. I’m also hoping that you are smiling and happy and in the perfect mood to put together an impromptu, last minute Fat Tuesday party. Even if you love pancakes and the whole breakfast for dinner thing, let Louisiana’s wonderful cuisine inspire you and your party menu. After all, New Orleans has earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the food capitals of the world.
I remember from my history classes that Louisiana is a melting pot of French, Spanish, Italian, Native American and African cultures. More often than not a melting pot means wonderful food and Louisiana’s particular blend is no exception. Louisianans have a tradition of great cooks, be it the refined Creole chefs of New Orleans or the homey Cajun traditions of the swamplands. Both Creoles and Cajuns love to eat. hey have a passion for food and take joy in cooking and eating together. With their flavorful gumbo, spicy jambalaya, wonderful red beans and rice, sweet bananas foster and the aforementioned beignets, who can blame them?
So call up a few friends, cook up a little Cajun or Creole, put on your dancing shoes, turn on some jazz and laissez les bons temps rouler!
Have a grand time and bon appétit!
Creole Shrimp & Cheesy Grits
Warm and spicy, Creole cooking is perfect for a chilly March night in New Hampshire. Enjoy!
1/2 pound hot or sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon or to taste hot sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces
1/2-1 cup half & half (optional)
1-2 scallions thinly sliced
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat; add the sausage and cook, breaking the meat into small pieces. Remove the sausage from pan, drain and reserve.
Put a little olive oil to the pan; add the onion, carrot, celery and pepper, season with thyme, oregano, paprika, salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce and cook for 2 minutes more.
Return the sausage to the pan, add the white wine, chicken broth and bay leaf, stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium and continue to simmer until the liquid is reduced by about a third.
Raise the heat to back to medium-high, add the shrimp and butter and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add the cream and continue cooking until the shrimp are pink and tender, another minute or two. Do not overcook.
Serve the shrimp and grits in shallow bowls. Spoon a mound of grits into each bowl, top with shrimp and sauce and garnish with scallion and a lemon wedge.
1 1/2 – 2 cups instant grits or polenta
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup half & half
3-4 ounces grated cheddar cheese
Make the grits according to package directions. When the grits are done, add the butter, cream and cheese, stir until melted and well combined. Keep warm until ready to serve.
How will you celebrate Mardi Gras? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below. I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.