As we come to the end of Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday approaches, I thought it would be fitting to post a round-up of a few New Orleans-inspired dishes I’ve made in the the past year.  If you’re not familiar with the significance of Fat Tuesday, it is the day before Ash Wednesday (when Lent starts) and marks the end of the Mardi Gras celebration.  The Lenten season is a time of periodic fasting (many Christians “give up” certain foods, items, or behaviors to signify fasting) and Fat Tuesday is the last big day of eating before the 40 days of Lent.  So if you’re looking for some great dishes for Fat Tuesday…or for any other day…be sure to check out these recipes.

Muffaletta

These meatless muffalettas are on top of our favorite sandwich list and we make them often.  With a number of dominant flavors, they all mesh beautifully, and even if you’re not a fan of olives, I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll love this sandwich!

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Meatless Muffalettas
source: Three Many Cooks

For The Mixed Olive Salad
2 medium garlic cloves
1/4 cup capers
1 cup drained ripe black olives
1 cup drained pimento-stuffed salad olives
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped celery hearts

For The Rest of The Sandwich:
4 Portuguese rolls, split
4 thin slices each (about 9 ounces total) mozzarella, provolone, and pepper Jack
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 drained can (14 ounces) quartered artichoke hearts, halved
3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, halved

1. Mince garlic cloves in a food processor. Add capers; pulse to chop. Add olives, vinegar, and oregano; pulse to chop again. Turn into a medium bowl; stir in olive oil and celery. (Can be refrigerated in an airtight container for several weeks.)

2. When ready to make sandwiches, spread 2 tablespoons of the olive salad on the cut side of each half roll. Divide cheese evenly between bread. On the bottom half of each sandwich, arrange a portion of onion, artichoke hearts, and sun-dried tomatoes. Cap with sandwich top. Halve crosswise on the diagonal and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

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Jambalaya

Chicken and shrimp jambalaya is a big favorite around here and I’ve got it on the menu for this week again.  Shredded chicken and juicy shrimp are cooked with spicy rice and you can’t beat this easy weeknight meal.

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Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya

source: The New Best Recipe by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated, as found on Annie’s Eats

1 medium onion, trimmed and quartered
1 rib celery, cut into quarters
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and quartered
5 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tsp. vegetable oil
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
8 oz. andouille sausage, halved lengthwise and cut into ¼-inch chunks (or crumbled, if in delicate casings)
1½ cups long-grain white rice
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. fresh thyme leaves
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained (¼ cup of juice reserved)
1 cup bottled clam juice
1½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 lb. shrimp (31-40 per lb.), peeled and deveined
2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley

Combine the onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until chopped fine, about six 1-second pulses, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice.  Be careful not to over-process.

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken to the pot, skin-side down, and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Using tongs, turn the chicken and cook until golden brown on the opposite side, about 3 minutes longer.  Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.  Lower the heat to medium and add the andouille.  Cook, stirring often, until browned, about 3 minutes.  Transfer the sausage to a paper towel-lined plate using a slotted spoon, and set aside.

Lower the heat to medium-low and add the chopped vegetables to the pan.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, about 4 minutes.  Add the rice, salt, thyme and cayenne; cook, stirring constantly, until the rice is coated with the fat, about 1 minute.  Add the diced tomatoes, reserved tomato juice, clam juice, chicken broth, bay leaves and cooked sausage to the pot.  Stir to combine.  Remove the skin from the chicken pieces and place the chicken on the rice so that the side the skin was just removed from is now facing down.  Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and let simmer for 15 minutes.  Stir once, keeping the chicken in the same general position, and continue to simmer until the chicken is no longer pink inside, about 10 minutes more.  Transfer the chicken to a clean plate or cutting board and set aside.  Scatter the shrimp over the rice, cover, and continue to cook until the rice is fully tender and the shrimp are opaque and cooked through, about 5 minutes more.

While the shrimp are cooking, shred the chicken into thin strands.  Once the shrimp are finished cooking, discard the bay leaves, stir in the chicken and parsley, and serve immediately.

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Homemade Potato Chips

Cajun-seasoned homemade potato chips are a simple and satisfying side dish or snack and what’s amazing about this recipe is that you “fry” the chips in the microwave.  Yep, a quick trip in the microwave actually yields a crispy potato chip!

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Homemade Potato Chips
source: adapted from Savory Sweet Life

1 russet potato
Non stick spray
Parchment paper or glass plate
Sea salt and Cajun seasoning

1. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the inside of your microwave.

2. Carefully slice1/3 of a potato into paper thin slices using a mandoline, vegetable peeler, or sharp knife. You don’t want to cut any more than this because any extra slices laying around waiting to be cooked will turn pink in color.

3. Completely coat the parchment paper with non-stick spray and place the potato slices in a single layer. Spray the potato slices with non stick spray and lightly sprinkle with salt and Cajun seasoning.

4. Turn off the rotating option on your microwave and cook for 4-5 minutes. Cooking times will vary based on the strength and power of your microwave. Some chips may turn very dark brown. Ideally you want them light and golden. Also in my microwave some of the chips on the outside layer didn’t cook as quick as the ones towards the middle, so you may need to remove the ones in the middle and cook the outer ones for an additional minute.

5. Repeat the process until you’ve used your entire potato.

Makes 2 servings.

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Beignets

You can’t get a more traditional New Orleans food than a beignet.  Fried dough covered with powdered sugar is found in many different cultures but there is something magical about beignets.  These are apple-filled and come with a butter-rum caramel dipping sauce.  Uh…yes please!

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Apple Cider Beignets with Butter-Rum Caramel Sauce
source: Gourmet Magazine, October 2007

For the sauce:
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cups water
1/4 cup dark rum
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/4 cup heavy cream

For the beignets:

About 8 cups vegetable oil, divided
2 Golden Delicious apples
1 3/4 cups self-rising cake flour, divided
1 large egg
3/4 cup sparkling apple cider
confectioner’s sugar for dusting

To make the sauce:
Heat sugar in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring with a fork to heat sugar evenly, until it starts to melt, then stop stirring and cook, swirling skillet occasionally so sugar melts evenly, until it is dark amber. Stir in butter, water, rum, vinegar, and a pinch of salt (caramel will harden and steam vigorously) and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until caramel has dissolved. Add cream and bring to a boil, stirring, then remove from heat. Cool to warm. 

To make the beignets:

1. Preheat oven to 250°F with rack in middle. Set a cooling rack in a large shallow baking pan.2. Heat 2 inches oil in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat to 375°F.

3. Meanwhile, peel apples and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Cut out core with cutter, then pat apple rings dry.
4. Put 1 1/4 cups flour in a large shallow bowl and make a well in center. Beat egg in a small bowl with a fork, then stir in cider and 1 tablespoon oil and pour into well. Stir with fork until a lumpy batter forms.
5. Working in batches of 3 or 4, dredge apple rings in remaining 1/2 cup flour, shaking off excess, then dip in batter to coat, letting excess drip off, and fry, gently turning over once with a slotted spoon, until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes total per batch. Transfer to rack and keep warm in oven. Return oil to 375°F between batches.

Just before serving, dust warm beignets with confectioners sugar. Stir sauce, then serve on the side.

Make 4-6 servings.

Cooks’ notes from Gourmet:

  • If you can’t find self-rising cake flour, you can substitute self-rising all-purpose. Use 1 cup in the batter and 1/2 cup for dredging. Increase cider to 1 cup and follow recipe as directed.
  • Sauce can be made 3 days ahead and chilled, covered. Warm before serving.
  • Beignets are best freshly made but can be fried 2 hours ahead and kept, loosely covered, at room temperature. Reheat beignets (they should not touch) on a rack set in a large shallow baking pan, uncovered, in a 325°F oven until hot, 15 to 20 minutes.

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