Try a taste of New Orleans for Mardi Gras

Published 5:35 pm Monday, May 4, 2015

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This Tuesday people around the world will celebrate Mardi Gras.
For many, the celebration of Mardi Gras – which literally means “Fat Tuesday” in French – seems like a raucous and sometimes even hedonistic event; however the day itself has a religious significance.
The Catholic season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. During Lent, Catholics, as well as some other Christians, focus on simple living, prayer and fasting in order to grow closer to God. Lent encompasses the 40 days preceding Easter, not counting Sundays.
So, before committing to a simpler life and fasting for 40 days, the idea of having a big party the day before gave birth to Mardi Gras.
Here in the United States, perhaps no city is as synonymous with Mardi Gras as New Orleans. The festival stretches for days but ends abruptly at midnight on Tuesday so that it does not carry over onto Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.
One of the other things New Orleans is world famous for is its food. But, if you can’t make it to the Crescent City, you can still bring a touch of the Cajun or Creole flair to your own kitchen.
This week, I am sharing a few of my favorite recipes that share the spirit of New Orleans.

Cajun Chicken Pasta
3/4 pound rotini pasta, cooked according to package directions
2 TBSP butter
2 skinless boneless chicken breasts, sliced into bite-sized pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch green onion, chopped
2 TBSP Cajun seasoning, or to taste
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
8 ounces heavy cream
1 green bell pepper, julienned
1 red bell pepper, julienned
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, quartered
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain; set aside. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken; cook, stirring frequently, until browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, onions, Cajun or Creole seasoning and ground black and red peppers. Add bell peppers and mushrooms; stir to combine. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Uncover; stir in cream and let simmer another 2 minutes. Stir in Parmesan cheese. Remove sauce from heat, stir in cooked pasta and serve immediately.
Shrimp Creole
1 medium onions, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
6 TBSP butter, divided
1 can (28 oz) petit diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 cup picante sauce
1 TBSP minced fresh parsley
3 TBSP all-purpose flour
1 can (14 1/2 oz) chicken broth
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 bay leaves
3 lbs cooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 can (8 oz) mushroom stems and pieces, drained
1/2 cup chopped green onion
Hot cooked rice
In a large skillet, saute onions, green pepper and celery in 5 TBSP butter until tender. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, picante sauce and parsley. In a large saucepan, melt the remaining butter; stir in flour until smooth. Gradually add the broth, salt, pepper and bay leaves. Stir into the vegetable mixture. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the shrimp, mushrooms and green onions. Cover and cook 10 minutes longer or until heated throughout. Discard the bay leaves. Serve over rice.

(Pronounced Ben-yays) This donut like pastry is a tradition in New Orleans, where they are served hot and covered in powdered sugar.
1 cup water
4 oz unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 cup, plus 2 TBSP sifted all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
oil or vegetable shortening, for deep frying
confectioner’s sugar for garnishing

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In a small saucepan combine the water, butter, granulated sugar, and salt and bring the mixture to a rapid boil. Remove the pan from heat and add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook the paste over low heat, beat briskly, until the ingredients are thoroughly combined and the dough cleanly leaves the sides of the pain and forms a ball. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. By hand or with an electric mixer set at medium speed, beat the paste until it is smooth and glossy. Stir in the vanilla.
In a deep fryer or skillet, heat oil or shortening to 370 degrees. Drop the dough by spoonfuls into the shortening, and fry the beignets in batches, turning them over to make sure they get done on both sides, until golden brown (about 3 minutes). With a slotted spoon, remove to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle the beignets with the confectioners’ sugar and serve the hot.
Abby was born and raised in the Stoney Creek community of Carter County. Her love of cooking grew over the years as she worked in the kitchen alongside her mother and grandmother. Reach her at