Cajun sensation

Celebrate Fat Tuesday the right way.

Mardi hardy: Celebrate Fat Tuesday by eating the types of food people enjoy during Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

By Donna Zitter Bordelon

Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Donut Day, Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day, call it what you will, is next Tuesday, Feb. 13. It’s the last day of Carnival season celebrations held around the world, and the last day before the fasting Lenten period.

The city of Mobile, Alabama celebrated the first Mardi Gras in 1703, although New Orleans now holds our country’s most famous Mardi Gras celebrations, which began with masked balls and public disguises. But it was the Mistick Krewe of Comus, still active, that held the first official New Orleans parade in 1857 with the theme “Demon Actors in Milton’s Paradise Lost.” Other Krewes (groups somewhat similar to the organizations that put on our Mummers Parade) formed and joined in the parade. Today, there is even an Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus, named after the Star Wars character, with membership open to all to become a “BacchanAlien,” and to party at the Chewbacchanal. The New Orleans Mardi Gras has been held yearly except during the Civil War and the two World Wars.

Even if you are not headed to Bourbon Street this year, here are a few Loo-Zee-Annah (like they say down South) recipes to enjoy.

SHRIMP ETOUFFEE

1½ cups onion, small dice

1½ cups celery, small dice

½ cup bell pepper, small dice

2 scallions with some green, chopped

2 cloves, minced

1 stick butter

2 Tbsp. Flour

1 can chicken stock (14 oz.) or 1 bottle beer

1 can Rotel-type tomatoes (hot tomatoes with jalapeno peppers)

½ tsp. Basil

½ tsp. Thyme

1 bay leaf

½ tsp. Salt

¼ tsp. Pepper

1/8 tsp. Cayenne

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 lbs. Shrimp

Garnish: Parsley and Chopped Scallions

In a heavy Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the onions, celery, pepper, scallions and garlic.

Cook over a medium-low heat until vegetables are soft but not browned, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the flour, stirring constantly, until light brown.

Add the chicken stock or beer gradually, stirring constantly.

Stir in the tomatoes, basil, thyme, bay leaf, salt, pepper, cayenne and Worcestershire sauce and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the shrimp, cooking over low heat until shrimp are cooked (pink and slightly curled), for a few minutes, depending on the size of the shrimp. Serve over rice.

The birds may have to suffer a little (let them eat cake), if you use your day-old bread to make the following delicious dessert.

BREAD PUDDING

1 loaf French bread or crusty Italian bread, day old

1 quart milk

4 eggs

1½ cups sugar

1 cup raisins

1 Tbsp. Vanilla extract

1 tsp. Cinnamon

½ tsp. Nutmeg

3 Tbsp. Butter

In a large bowl, break bread into bite-size chunks. Cover the bread chunks with the milk, and allow to soak until the milk is absorbed. (At least 1 hour)

In a separate, small bowl, beat the eggs together with the sugar until mixture is thick. Stir in the raisins, vanilla extract, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Pour the egg mixture over the bread chunks, and stir gently until all the ingredients are combined.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the butter (in microwave, if using glass pan) in a 13x9x2-inch baking pan and tilt pan so butter covers bottom and slightly up pan’s sides OR butter the baking pan.

Pour the bread pudding into the baking dish. Bake about 50–60 minutes or until slightly browned and edges are pulling away from the sides of the pan.

Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar or serve with the following whiskey sauce.

WHISKEY SAUCE

1 stick butter

1 cup sugar

1 egg, beaten

1/3 cup bourbon

Melt butter on low or in the microwave. Add sugar and egg and whisk well.

Cook over low heat, stirring and whisking constantly until sauce thickens.

Turn off heat. Cool slightly. Whisk in bourbon. Serve warm.

Eat well, live long, enjoy!

(Ques­tions or tips can be sent to Donna Zit­ter Bor­de­lon at WhatscookinNEPhilly@gmail.com or in care of the Times, 2 Executive Campus, Suite 400, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002)

Don’t forget:

Send in your favorite recipe for a chance to win a $100 ShopRite gift card. Mail your recipe to Readers’ Recipes, 2 Executive Campus, Suite 400, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002. Or email your recipe to WhatscookinNEPhilly@gmail.com. Please include name, address and telephone number.