Big Easy jambalaya and beignet for Mardi Gras
TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. andamp;#8212; Considering New Orleans has endured hurricanes, yellow fever, floods, wars and the residency of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, andamp;#8220;The Big Easyandamp;#8221; seems like kind of a misplaced nickname for this beleaguered city.But hey, they know how to party! Denial is not, apparently, just a river in Egypt. So get in the swing of things, bust out the beads, put on some jazz and andamp;#8220;Pass a good timeandamp;#8221; (NOLA translation: have a good time) this Mardi Gras with some Southern/Cajun/French cooking.Seriously, you cannot go wrong when these three cultures collide in the kitchen. Safety tip: keep your shirt on. You are cooking with hot oil.JambalayaYou will never, ever find a better recipe for this Louisiana classic. Great cold-weather fare even without a holiday attached. I emphasize cold weather. Once my father served it to a boyfriend I was trying to impress when we visited my family in Hawaii, and it was one sweaty, uncomfortable experience.In fact, I can probably blame the demise of that relationship squarely on my dad. The preparation is no big easy and involves some chopping and undivided attention, but it is a guaranteed, andamp;#8220;Wow! Great, honey! Let me dig out your car tomorrow.andamp;#8221; Well, a girl can dream a little…11andamp;#8260;2 cup diced ham (buy one of those ham steaks if you donandamp;#8217;t have some in the freezer)1andamp;#8260;2 lb. shelled shrimp2 Tbls. olive oil11andamp;#8260;2 tsp. butter2 onions, finely chopped1 clove garlic minced2 bay leavesSalt and pepper1 cup uncooked brown rice1 quart prepared beef consomm, keep hot on stove1andamp;#8260;2 green bell pepper, chopped4 medium tomatoesDash cayenne pepper1andamp;#8260;2 cup sherry1andamp;#8260;2 cup red wineSaut ham and shrimp in oil. Add butter, onion, garlic, bay leaves, salt and pepper to taste (you an add more Sandamp;P at end). Add brown rice. Saut until golden brown, 4-5 minutes. Add hot consomm, bell pepper, tomatoes and cayenne pepper. Cover and let simmer on a very low temperature for 30-35 minutes. Stir gently and occasionally. When finished, or when just about to serve, add wine and sherry, do not cover again, do not stir, and cook until liquid has been absorbed. Serve with green salad and French bread.Dough Boy BeignetsAnother nickname for New Orleans is the andamp;#8220;Crescent City.andamp;#8221; Because my life revolves around food, I naturally assumed this was derived from the French croissants or, as Americans refer to them, crescent rolls. Wrong. The name pertains to New Orleansandamp;#8217; proximately to a crescent-shaped bend in the Mississippi River.That is your geography lesson for the day; bring on Alex Trebeck. The following is a fast, straight-shot to a great end product: Beignets, or New Orleansandamp;#8217; trademark doughnuts. Use prepared, refrigerated biscuits, preferably Pillsbury Golden Layer Buttermilk. Easier to handle and fry than the crescent rolls. Just separate a 12-oz can of the biscuits into individual rounds and cut them into quarters. Heat two inches of oil over medium heat (350 degrees) and fry dough in small batches, 1 to 11andamp;#8260;2 minutes on each side.Drain on paper towels and dust liberally with powdered sugar using clean flour sifter or hand-held strainer. Serve immediately.
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