Since I grew up in New Jersey, it wouldn’t be fair to say that Mardi Gras,which begins tomorrow, was ever a big part of my life. It would be fair to say that in college, Mardi Gras was an excuse to go out celebrate. And by celebrate, I mean drink alcohol on a school night.
Well, now that I am older I have a deeper understanding of Mardi Gras (and an inability to drink alcohol on a school night with the expectations of functioning the next day). Sometimes referred to as Carnival, it is a a period of celebration that has roots in pagan
end-of-winter and beginning-of-spring rituals reaching back thousands
There is a lot of lore attached to Mardi Gras: stories about women flashing their chests in exchange for beads, rumors that people walk around in the nude. Mardi Gras, which is known as “fat Tuesday,” can be one big party, but it originated as a pre-Lenten festival in preparation for Ash
Wednesday and the start of the fast of Lent.
Mardi Gras is thus the
last opportunity for partying, celebration and indulgence in food and drink. In
practice, the festival is generally celebrated for one full week before
Lent and includes spectacular parades featuring floats,
pageants, elaborate costumes, masked balls, and people dancing in the
If you’re celebrating Mardi Gras in your own town this year but like me, are not much of a party-er on school nights, celebrate with some cuisine reminiscent of the French Quarter – like cajun-style Jambalaya.
Jambalaya with Red Beans & Andouille Sausage
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
1 pound andouille sausage, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups homemade or low-sodium store-bought chicken stock
3/4 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 can (14 ounces) crushed tomatoes with juice
1 can (25 ounces) red kidney beans
1 cup cooked brown rice
1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add vegetables to pot. Cook, stirring, 5 minutes or until onions and celery have softened.
2. Add sausage; cook 3 minutes. Add garlic; cook 1 minute. Stir in stock, Old Bay, tomatoes, and 1/2 cup water; bring to a boil.
3. Add rice and beans. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes. Cover; reduce heat to low. Let simmer, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until liquid is mostly absorbed, 30 to 35 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, as desired. Serve with simple cornbread.