Fat Tuesday

jambalaya photoFat Tuesday, also known as Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday, is the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Ash Wednesday occurs 46 days before Easter, which falls on a different day each year, so it can be as early as February 4 or as late as March 10.

Because Easter falls on March 31 this year, Fat Tuesday is next week—February 12. Here in the United States, Mardi Gras is practically synonymous with New Orleans, and I got to spend the holiday in Louisiana when I was in the 5th grade. My cousin Susan lives there, and every summer her family would visit the Northwest to get away from the heat of the South, so over the years I have been able to enjoy her Southern cooking.

Every year I make something to honor the day. This year its from my Emeril Lagasse cookbook, New Orleans Cooking, from which I plan to make a batch of Jambalaya. Of course I modify his recipe a bit, though I do like his Creole Seasoning recipe (see below), which is a good thing to keep on hand if you like Cajun sweet potato oven fries. I’ve noted some of the other ingredients (with an asterisk) that I change out for clients who have specific likes and dislikes—people who don’t like green peppers or don’t eat pork, for example.

Jambalaya
12 raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, and chopped (about ¾ pound)
1 small chicken breast, boned, skinned, and chopped (about ½ cup)
1 tablespoon Emeril’s Creole Seasoning (see below)
¼ cup olive oil
4 ounces andouille sausage, chopped (about ½ cup)*
¼ cup chopped onions
¼ cup chopped celery
¼ cup chopped green bell pepper*
2 tablespoons minced garlic
½ cup peeled, seeded, and chopped Italian plum tomatoes (about 2)
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
3 turns fresh ground black pepper

Combine shrimp, chicken, and Creole Seasoning in a bowl and use your hands to blend thoroughly.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large nonreactive skillet over high heat. Add the seasoned shrimp and chicken, and stir fry for 1 minute. Add sausage, chopped vegetables and garlic and stir fry for an additional minute.

Stir in tomatoes, bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, stock, salt, and pepper and bring to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes to let the flavors meld.

Remove cover and stir in the remaining olive oil. Serve over rice.

Emeril’s Creole Seasoning
Makes about 2/3 cup
Combine the following ingredients:
2½ tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Store in an airtight container.

My recipe is adapted from Emeril Lagasse’s recipe for Couscous Jambalaya in his New Orleans Cooking cookbook.

A few modifications I often make: For those who don’t like green pepper, I will often substitute red bell peppers; for clients who don’t eat meat, I use chicken andouille sausage instead of the more traditional pork; and for my husband, who doesn’t like chunks of tomatoes and onions, I purée those ingredients and add the onions along with the tomatoes and stock.

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